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Coalition Identifies U.S. Soldiers Killed in Nasiriya

BY Admin  April 5, 2003 at 11:04 AM EDT

Eight of the soldiers were part of a supply column ambushed in Nasiriya on March 23. The eight were originally listed as Missing in Action, but Pentagon officials changed their status Saturday.

All nine were located at a hospital that was being used by Iraqis as a military base. Eight were buried near the complex.

The bodies were found by special operation forces on April 1, during a successful mission to rescue another member of the supply column being held captive at the hospital.

U.S. officials said that a doctor at the hospital had notified the special operations troopers that the bodies of several American might be buried nearby.

“They, in fact, did not have shovels in order to dig those graves up, so they dug them up with their hands,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart, head of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters Saturday. “A great testament to the will and desire of coalition forces to bring their own home.”

The soldiers removed 11 bodies, but coalition forensic experts determined two were not American.

Seven of the eight dead identified on Saturday were from the 507th Maintenance Company based at Fort Bliss, Texas. They were Master Sgt. Robert Dowdy, 38, Cleveland, Ohio; Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto, 18, El Paso, Texas; Spc. James Kiehl, 22, Comfort, Texas; Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, 35, Amarillo, Texas; Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, Tuba City, Ariz,; Pvt. Brandon Sloan, 19, Cleveland, Ohio, and Sgt. Donald Walters, 33, Kansas City, Mo.

The eighth was Sgt. George Buggs, 31, Barnwell, S.C., a member of the 3rd Division Support Battalion of Fort Stewart, Ga.

The identity of the ninth soldier was not immediately released.

Renuart said it was important to ensure families understood the fate of the soldiers.

“While we grieve at the loss of those soldiers, we are pleased that we are able to make a determination of their fate and bring that back to their families,” Renuart said.

The latest identifications mean that 75 American soldiers have died during the Iraq War, 62 killed in hostile action and 13 in accidents or other incidents.