Missing and Missed
A May 12 ambush outside Baghdad that left four U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi soldier dead ignited a massive search for three missing comrades. As the hunt by thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops stretched into its third week over Memorial Day weekend, Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., remained missing. Pvt. Joseph Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif. was dragged from the Euphrates River on May 23, his corpse showing signs of torture. Last week, while the Jimenez and Fouty families awaited word of their loved ones, the Anzacks and friends shared memories of the young man who'd planned to make his life in the military.
Joseph Anzack Sr., father: My son was a determined man. Whatever he wanted to do he made happen. He told me that signing up was something he wanted to do. He said, "I just can't see me bagging groceries at Ralphs." He really saw his future in the military. He saw it as a career. Ever since he got in, he was saving up his money. He'd sent home over $14,000 in savings bonds.
Josh Waybright, Anzack's football coach at South Torrance High School: Every so often during his senior year, I'd ask him when he was going in, and he knew down to the number of days when he was shipping off for boot camp. He wanted to be in the Special Forces.
Chris Hyduke, the football team's defensive coordinator: He couldn't wait to get over there. He'd already started wearing khaki military pants to school. He went through his three-month boot camp with a bone chip in his foot. He just kept quiet and toughed it out. He literally missed out on getting into the Special Forces by one or two sit-ups. So he went into the 10th Mountain Division as a gunner.
Ricky Benedict, a friend: He would do anything the football coach asked him to do. Anything. He knew how to take orders. That's why the military was perfect for him.
Waybright: He was about 5'10" and weighed 180 lbs., but he played like he was 6'3" and weighed 240. He was a tough kid. A coach's dream. I'm sure he was a great soldier. He always put the other guy in front of himself.
Hyduke: He was kind of a quiet kid. A lot of kids saw him as a leader and mentor. He stood out that way. He wasn't a flashy guy. But he was the kind of kid that, if you needed him to cover your back, he'd do it.
Joseph Sr.: I've been talking to the guys out on detail (those searching for the missing soldiers), and they've been telling me what is going on. They've been going through that area with a fine-tooth comb. They're finding all sorts of weapons caches, mortar rounds, which will definitely save some lives. There has to be some way to make something positive out of a negative. Maybe this is it.
Kenny Hetman, Anzack's wrestling coach and algebra teacher: Everything he did, he did 110 percent. I remember he shaved his football jersey number into his chest. But he was looking at his jersey in the mirror when he did it, and it came out backwards. He burst into the locker room and showed everybody. They laughed and so did he. He didn't care what anyone thought about him. He really thought it was funny.
Benedict: The last time I spoke with him, he said, "Dude, when I come back, we're going to rally the gang together and party hard."
Instead, on May 24, several of his former football teammates gathered on the 50-yard line of the high school playing field and remembered Anzack. They decided to retire his jersey number, 52.
Joseph Sr.: The last conversation I had with him was a serious one. I asked him how he felt he was doing as a soldier, and he told me, "I'm getting better. We're all getting better every day." I don't know what happened when he was in [enemy] possession, but I do believe he knew he was in a bad situation and he relied on God. One thing we're not going to do is sit here and cry and give the enemy that satisfaction. I'm honored to have him as a son. I really am.