‘I Had a Terrible Feeling’
Of 250,000 troops, some would inevitably be lost. But nothing can prepare a
family for the knock on the door. NEWSWEEK honors America’s bravest
April 7 issue — The youngest were fresh out of high school. The oldest
were veterans of other battles who signed up for one more chance to serve
their country. By last weekend, 53 American soldiers were identified as
captured, killed or missing in Iraq. At least seven journalists were also
reported missing or dead. Amid the thunder of war, the families tended to
remember the little things: how a young father sang in the choir, how a
daughter dreamed of a posting in Hawaii. For some, there may still be a happy
ending; for others, only tears.
Captive Army cook Spc. Shoshana Johnson in an image taken from Iraqi
Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson,
30, El Paso, Texas
Her name means “rose” in Hebrew, the inspiration of an aunt who once
worked as a nurse in Brooklyn. But her family is Panamanian-American, and
although she grew up in an Army family, she never expected to find herself on
the front lines. She is fun-loving, her younger sister Nikki says: outgoing,
independent and trustworthy—definitely not the kind of person who “stays in
front of the TV forever and a day.” Shoshana’s dream was to be a chef, but
culinary school costs money, and Army cook was close enough. And it seemed
safe enough, too.
But early on the morning of March 23, her father, Claude, was flipping
through the channels looking for a cartoon show for Johnson’s 2-year-old
daughter, Janelle. He happened to catch a newscast on the Spanish-language
network Telemundo. “They said five Americans had been captured in Iraq,” he
says. “I caught ‘one African-American female, 30 years old, from the 507th.’
Her name was Shana. I said, ‘It’s got to be her’.”
It was. Now her large extended family, including more than a dozen
cousins, are watching and waiting. Inspired by the relatives of Elizabeth
Smart, whose savvy handling of the press helped lead to the return of a 15-
year-old kidnapped Utah girl, Shoshana’s relations have appeared all over
television and in the newspapers, publicly praying for her release. “I
realized media attention is the thing that brought that girl home,” says
Shoshana’s aunt Margaret Thorne-Henderson, who has appeared on the “Today”
show. “We just want her to be treated humanely,” Nikki told NEWSWEEK, “and to
return home swiftly and safely.”
Chief Warrant Officer II David S. Williams, U.S. Army
30, Orlando, Fla.
As soon as he was old enough to dream, Williams dreamed of flying. He
joined the Army after high school and headed straight for flight training.
After his Apache helicopter went down last week, he appeared on Iraqi TV. For
Williams’s father, a former Army medic, that was a relief of sorts: “Up until
that point he was listed as MIA, and you always think the worst.”
Specialist Edgar Adan Hernandez, U.S. Army
21, Alton, Texas
“He’s got a noble character,” his mother, Maria de la Luz Hernandez,
says in Spanish, then, inadvertently slipping into the past tense: “He was a
good brother, a good son, respectful to the whole world.” Hernandez, though,
may well be alive; he was also shown on Iraqi TV.
Chief Warrant Officer II Ronald D. Young Jr., U.S. Army
26, Lithia Springs, Ga.
Friends and relatives say the divorced father of one has always been
upbeat and self-confident. He appeared—to them at least—more angry than
scared in the brief video clips shown on Iraqi TV. “I believe the Lord will
deliver him back to us,” says his father, a Vietnam vet.
Sgt. James Riley, U.S. Army
31, Pennsauken, N.J.
Riley loved his work as an Army machinist, according to his father,
Athol. “He wasn’t at all nervous about going over there,” his father
says. “He just considered it his job.” Still, Athol Riley says he’s very
worried, especially because his son “didn’t have his glasses when he was
shown on TV.”
Pfc. Patrick Miller, U.S. Army
23, Park City, Kans.
After working as a welder, Miller enlisted last summer to help pay off
student loans and was stationed at Fort Bliss. When he was deployed in
December, his wife, Jessa, and children, Tyler, 4, and Makenzie, now 7
months, moved back to Kansas. Now the trees in his neighborhood are covered
in yellow ribbons.
Specialist Joseph Hudson, U.S. Army
23, Alamogordo, N.M.
Not long after a March 23 ambush, Hudson’s mother was watch-ing a
foreign newscast and saw footage of her son. “He looked so scared,” she
says. “I just pray to my God they take care of him.”
Specialist James Kiehl, U.S. Army
22, Comfort, Texas
A computer technician with the 507th Maintenance Company, Kiehl was
among the missing in the convoy ambush near An Nasiriya. His father, Randy,
has been monitoring war news on two televisions, three phone lines and a
computer, and keeping up “a strong front and a strong face” for the media—
”just in case they show James any news footage” from back home.
Pfc. Tamario Burkett, U.S. Marine Corps
21, Buffalo, N.Y.
He wrote home often, and his letters were filled with advice and
instructions for his five younger siblings: to focus on schoolwork and (for
15-year-old Katrina) to stay away from boys. And he also confided his own
fears: would God forgive him if he killed someone in combat?
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, U.S. Army
19, Palestine, W.Va.
Hawaii was supposed to be Lynch’s next posting, a dream come true for
a girl from a town so small she never saw a shopping mall until she was 17.
But as war loomed her orders changed, and she found herself in the Middle
East—where, on March 23, she disappeared near An Nasiriya.
Pvt. Brandon Sloan, U.S. Army
19, Bedford Heights, Ohio
Rementa Muldrow-Pippen says her grandson “loves comedy, loves to joke,
loves the Temptations, loves football and loves to eat.” His father, Tandy,
told a reporter he last talked to his son by telephone just three weeks
before he was deployed from Fort Bliss. Then came the news that Sloan’s unit
was ambushed on the road to Baghdad.
Pfc. Lori Piestewa, U.S. Army
23, Tuba City, Ariz.
Piestewa grew up in a military family: her grandfather fought in World
War II and her father served in Vietnam. A divorced mother of two, she joined
the Army in 2000. “She’s a tough kid, and she keeps her head about her,” her
brother Wayland told a reporter after her unit ran into an ambush. “Our hope
is that she’s... staying alive and staying smart.”
Pvt. Nolen Ryan Hutchings, U.S. Marine Corps
20, Boiling Springs, S.C.
When 7-year-old Edward Nolen was adopted by his stepfather, Larry
Hutchings, he took the opportunity to rename himself in honor of his hero,
pitcher Nolan Ryan. On March 23 he disappeared while his unit was trying to
secure a bridge outside An Nasiriya. “They’ll probably find him somewhere
behind a sand dune,” Larry says hopefully.
Master Sgt. Robert