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One of the articles Blair was found to have lied in - 27 March 2003


[What follows is the entire New York Times article, written by Blair and published on 27 March 2003.

The article can be accessed on the paper's website here. The article is The New York Times' copyright but is published here in full. As with all other articles on this site, I ask the publishers to recognise the historical value of having their work readily accessible in one place. This site seeks no commercial gain, only to serve as a resource for the future.

Any questions, queries should be directed to kieren@jaysonblair.com.]


March 27 , 2003

Relatives of Missing Soldiers Dread Hearing Worse News

By Jayson Blair

PALESTINE, W.Va., March 26 -- Gregory Lynch Sr. choked up as he stood on his porch here overlooking the tobacco fields and cattle pastures, and declared that he remained optimistic -- even though a military official had just come by to warn him to brace himself, that even worse news could be coming any day now.

It is hard to imagine, he says, any worse news than what he learned on Sunday night: his 19-year-old daughter, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, had been in the Army convoy that was ambushed in southern Iraq.

Fifteen soldiers were missing, captured or killed and Private Lynch's fate was unknown, officials said at that time. But Mr. Lynch said today that the official told him five of the soldiers in the unit, not including his daughter, could be seen alive on a videotape broadcast on an Arab television network. Two other soldiers could be identified and were dead in one room, Mr. Lynch said the official told him, but there were also several other bodies -- six or more -- that could be seen in another room.

If all the additional bodies of those soldiers are from the 507th Maintenance Company and there were only six of them, in the brutal equation running through Mr. Lynch's mind, there is still a chance his eldest daughter is alive.

''She is listed as missing; we still believe she is missing,'' he said.

Since that ambush on Sunday, much of the nation's attention has focused on the five members of the 507th, whose frightened images appeared on Iraqi television and later in news broadcasts here.

And in recent days the families of the prisoners of war have expressed hope that their loved ones would be returned safely once the fighting ends. But for the families of the eight members of the 507th whom the Pentagon lists as ''whereabouts unknown,'' there is an extra degree of dread in their wait.

''We don't know anything. Not knowing anything is so hard,'' said Ruben Estrella, whose 18-year-old son, Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto of El Paso, is among the members of the 507th listed as missing. ''I can't take this waiting.''

Mr. Lynch seemed distracted as he stood on the porch of his hilltop home here looking into the tobacco fields and pastures. He talked about the satellite television service that brought CNN and other cable news networks into his home, his family's long history of military service and the poor condition of the local economy.

It was almost as if he wanted to talk about anything -- anything other than his elder daughter. He took a deep breath and stared nervously at his wife, Deadre -- her eyes red and watery -- and then looked at their 17-year-old daughter, Brandi, as he recounted the events of Sunday night.

That was when he found out that his elder daughter was missing, along with the 14 other soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company who had been ambushed in southern Iraq. The family was watching television that afternoon when they were jolted by the news that an Army maintenance unit had been ambushed early that morning. Then they heard that an Arab television network was broadcasting images of soldiers who had been captured. Then they heard that one of the prisoners of war was a woman. They found some relief, though, when they heard that the woman was black.

''I told my wife that we should not worry because no news is good news and we hadn't heard anything,'' Mr. Lynch said, explaining his relief.

But then the knock came.

An Army officer in a green full-dress uniform was at the door to deliver the message that his daughter's company had been ambushed and no one knew where she was. Several soldiers had been captured, the officer said, and others had been killed. But, Mr. Lynch recalled, the officer said she was not among them and was nowhere to be found.

''He told us that the Army had no idea where she was and that she was being listed as missing in action,'' Mr. Lynch said.

The waiting and wondering have taken their toll, creating an emotional upheaval in each family member's life.

Jessica's older brother, Gregory Jr., who is in the West Virginia National Guard, was flown home from Fort Bragg, N.C. Brandi, a senior at Wirt County High School, where Jessica graduated less than two years ago, has hardly left her mother's side.

For a while, they watched television, flipping from channel to channel, for a tidbit about Private Lynch. But it was turned off after a reporter asked the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, ''Does the president think that the Iraqi Army has somehow changed to avoid raping of female prisoners?''

Since finding out her daughter was missing, Deadre Lynch says, she has not been able to sleep much. When she has been able to catch a few minutes of sleep, she says, she has dreamed that her daughter ran away from her unit before the attack to help some Iraqi child. The last time the family heard from their daughter was in an e-mail message from Kuwait two weeks ago. She wrote about her dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher and her discomfort with any order not to stop to help any children because it could be a decoy or a trap.

At the Pentagon today, Defense Department officials announced for the first time the names of the confirmed dead from the 507th, as well as those who are still classified as missing. The prisoners of war had already been identified by military officials and relatives who had seen their television images.

The dead were listed as Specialist Jamaal R. Addison, 22, of Roswell, Ga., and Pfc. Howard Johnson II, 21, of Mobile, Ala.

The missing were listed as Private Lynch; Private Estrella-Soto; Master Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy, 38, of Cleveland; and Specialist James M. Kiehl, 22, of Des Moines, as well as Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, 35, of El Paso, and Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, of Tuba City, Ariz. Pvt. Brandon Ulysses Sloan, 19, of Bedford, Ohio, and Sgt. Donald Ralph Walters, 33, of Salem, Ore., were also listed as missing.

Part of what has made the circumstances of the 507th so striking is that most of its members were young and in noncombat roles. The unit had been sent to supply soldiers on the front lines on Sunday when the lead vehicle made a wrong turn, taking them off a highway and across a bridge. The unit -- made up of mechanics, supply clerks, a cook -- was trapped by two buses, Iraqi irregular forces and tanks. The unit keeps trucks rolling, fixes generators and maintains other equipment, said Jean Offutt, a spokeswoman at Fort Bliss, the base in western Texas.

A firefight ensued where several members of the 507th, including its chief officer, were wounded and escaped. Marines who were sent in to look for the other members found only the remains of some of their vehicles.

Officials at Fort Bliss asked relatives of the members of the 507th not to speak to the news media today, citing concerns that Iraqi forces would use the interviews to coerce information against those who are prisoners.

Stacie Walters, 27, who learned that her husband, Sgt. Donald Walters, was among the missing, said that part of his job during the first Persian Gulf war had been to guard captured Iraqi soldiers. His sister, Kimberly Cieslak, who lives in Salem, Ore., said that her brother ''came back pretty traumatized from that experience,'' adding that during that war he had seen ''too many dead people.''

Pentagon officials also said Specialist Gregory P. Sanders, 19, of Indiana, an Army infantryman, was killed in combat in Iraq on Monday. Mr. Sanders, the son of a Navy sailor, began wearing combat fatigues when he was 2 years old, relatives said. ''He wanted to be a soldier,'' said Rick Knight, his uncle, who said Army officials told him that his nephew had been killed in a sniper shooting. ''He was born to be a soldier.''

Pentagon officials also said a second serviceman was killed in a grenade attack believed to have been carried out by another soldier at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. The officials said Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, of Boise, Idaho, a member of the Air National Guard, died on Tuesday of injuries suffered in that attack.

The officials also said that two marines in an engineering unit, Cpl. Evan T. James, 20, of Hancock, Ill., and Sgt. Bradley S. Korthaus, 29, of Scott, Iowa, who disappeared near the Saddam Canal in southeastern Iraq on Monday, were being listed as missing in action.

In Iowa, Sergeant Korthaus's brother Steve said he had joined the Marines just after graduating from high school in 1992 and ''would have been mad if he didn't get to go'' to Iraq, even though he had just become engaged. ''He wanted to be a marine since he was 10 years old,'' Mr. Korthaus said.