Fort Drum recalls missing, dead soldiers

In this photo released by the U.S. Army, soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum search Iraqi homes on Monday.
In this photo released by the U.S. Army, soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum search Iraqi homes on Monday.Angela Mckinzie / U.S. Army via AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Fort Drum soldiers said an ambush in Iraq that left four of their comrades dead and three missing will only work to unite America and strengthen the military's determination.

"If this is a scare tactic to undermine our resolve, they need to realize our soldiers are trained killers and don't scare," said Spc. Dorothy Drake, of Los Angeles.

"This is more incentive to finish the job. The Army is family. This will bring us together. It will bring the country together," said Drake.

The Pentagon identified three of those killed in the weekend attack near Mahmoudiya, but is waiting for more testing before the identity of the fourth dead soldier can be confirmed. All were members of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The confirmed dead are: Pfc. Daniel W. Courneya, 19, of Vermontville, Mich.; Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tenn.; and Pfc. Christopher E. Murphy, 21, of Lynchburg, Va.

The four other soldiers are Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev.; Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.; Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif.; and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich. The Pentagon said one of those four was among the dead, but it could not confirm which one. 

Separately, in an interview with NBC's Ian Williams, Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, said he believes the three soldiers are still alive and have not been moved from the area in which they were seized.

Dressed smartly
Cathy Conger, 49, said Fouty lived with her family for 14 months, during which time he earned his GED and enlisted in the Army.

Conger said she last saw Fouty in December when he returned home following boot camp. The well-mannered youth she remembered was suddenly grown up, she said, dressed smartly in a military uniform.

"He looked so handsome," Conger said, adding that Fouty told her then that he was headed for Iraq. "He wasn't scared," she said. "He was real brave about it."

Military officials notified Anzack's family Sunday that he was missing. "We're praying that he's alive," his aunt Debbie Anzack said. The military told the family that DNA test results were expected as early as Wednesday.

Courneya was well-known in Vermontville, a small community southwest of Lansing. He was a member of the school's track and soccer teams and played clarinet in the band.

At Maple Valley High School, Courneya's death was announced Monday over the school's public address system, and a moment of silence was observed, said special education and discipline secretary Kelly Zank.

Tributes to fallen soldier
Students were remembering Courneya in their own, personal way. They were putting together a memorial for the former student.

"It's a tribute of photos, posters, plaques and a picture of him in his uniform," Zank said.

At Fort Drum, some were frustrated as they waited for news.

"Everyone here is concerned," said Sgt. Bryan Flinner, a six-year veteran who returned home early from deployment to Afghanistan because of a head injury. "Even if you don't know a soldier personally, there's always a connection because of what we do. It's frustrating but there's nothing we can do back here."

Pvt. Ernie Rodriguez, 19, of Sacramento, Calif., had just heard about his missing military brethren. Rodriguez is awaiting his first deployment but the kidnappings had done nothing to change his mind about his job.

"We need to stay concentrated on our training. This just motivates me more to be the best soldier I can be," he said.