Family says Texas soldier, last of Iraq MIAs, found dead
Houston Chronicle News Services
LOS FRESNOS - Army Sgt. Edward John Anguiano, the last U.S. soldier missing in action in Iraq, has been found dead, his family says.
Sgt. Anguiano disappeared while he was traveling with the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, which was ambushed on March 23 on the outskirts of Nasiriyah.
Anguiano's grandfather and an aunt said military officials notified the family Sunday night of the the 24-year-old Army mechanic's death.
The Defense Department said the body was found Thursday. The remains were identified Sunday.
"What we heard is that he was ambushed," said Vicente Anguiano Sr., 72. "They found his truck, the one he drove, and it had been stripped -- tires and everything. They found a body near the truck."
Officials conducted DNA tests and determined it was the soldier's remains, the grandfather said. He did not know when the body was found but believed Edward Anguiano was killed during the initial ambush.
The soldier's mother "is very sad. She was not expecting him to be found dead," Maria Anguiano said.
Edward Anguiano was in the 3rd Infantry Combat Support Battalion out
of Fort Stewart, Ga. He was traveling with the 507th Maintenance Company,
a unit from
Fort Bliss in El Paso, when it was attacked. Nine soldiers were killed and six, all with the 507th from Fort Bliss, were taken prisoner. One prisoner, Pfc. Jessica
Lynch, was rescued April 1; five soldiers were released April 13 and returned to the United States on April 19.
The Anguiano family's wait for news one way or another had been agonizing.
Last week Juanita Anguiano pointed proudly to the pinstriped couches,
the tennis bracelet in its red case and the Martha Stewart furniture out
on the patio. She
proudly pointed up to the ceiling fan, the lamp she got for Mother's Day, the entertainment center that arrived last Christmas and all the other gifts from her only son.
She talked about the obligation her son felt to give back to his mother,
who raised him and his two sisters alone on the salary she made as a teacher's
aide here in a
desolate stretch of southern Texas. It was much easier for her to talk about these things, she said, than about her son's disappearance.
"I wish I could talk to a mother who is in the same shoes as I am, who has her son missing in action," Anguiano said Friday.
But there were none.
Before they received today's news, Juanita Anguiano and her daughters
said they did not know what to feel or how to feel. They jumped and felt
knots in their
stomachs each time the phone rand, each time there was a knock on the door. Isolated as much by their circumstances as their location in the southernmost tip of
Texas, the Anguianos described the place that they are in as a painful purgatory.
A man from the Army visited almost every day, but today's news was the first information to come in a while.
Anguiano was born in California and grew up here in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where many of his mother's relatives lived. He never knew his father but was raised -- along with his sisters, Jennifer, 19, and Becky, 16 -- by relatives and friends, including an uncle, his grandfather and a college professor who became a mentor.
Anguiano struggled academically at Hanna High School in nearby Brownsville, relatives say, but persisted, joining the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, playing football and graduating in 1998.
After graduation, Anguiano took a job at a poultry processing plant in Arkansas, but quit after several months of what relatives say he described as brutally repetitive work. Relatives say he returned here and enrolled in community college, but after three semesters joined the Army.
He enlisted in August 2000, relatives say, for many of the same reasons as others traveling with the 507th, a band of supply clerks, mechanics and a cook. For the most part, they were looking for good jobs, a way to see the world, a way to obtain a college education.
Vicente Anguiano Jr., the uncle who helped raise him, says Sgt. Anguiano
had hoped to finish college while in the Army and then join the Coast Guard.
combat assignment, relatives say, after being assigned to Fort Stewart, was in Kosovo, where U.S. soldiers were helping pick up the pieces after the conflict there.
He returned in 2001 to Fort Stewart, where he met a woman whom family
members say he had talked about marrying. "He struggled a lot," Vicente
"but never gave up, and that allowed him to accomplish so much in the last few years."
He last came home in December, family members said, but wrote several letters about his plans for the future after being sent to Kuwait.
Also today, two Fort Hood soldiers have been killed in Iraq, the Department of Defense said.
The two are the first from the post to die in Iraq. Two Apache helicopter pilots from the post were held as POWs before their rescue on April 13.
Spc. Narson B. Sullivan, 21, of North Brunswick, N.J., and 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco, 26, of Delano Calif., died Friday.
Sullivan, with the 411th Military Police Company, was killed by a "non-combat weapon discharge," according to the Defense Department.
Orozco, with the 22nd Infantry Regiment, died when his vehicle rolled
over while traveling through rough terrain. The unit was part of the quick
reaction force and
was responding to enemy fire, the department said.
The Associated Press and New York Times News Service contributed to