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Army identifies missing Corona soldier’s remains

After more than a year of prayers and hope for good news, the mother of Corona soldier Sgt. Alex Jimenez said she received the worst news of her life last week.

Army officials identified remains belonging to the 25-year-old last Thursday, along with his comrade who was also missing in action in Iraq.

Maria del Rosario Duran, Jimenez's mother and her family and friends could not contain their sorrow during a news conference Friday outside her home at 104-35 37th Drive.

"Right now, I'm feeling very sad. I'm feeling a great pain," she said before breaking into tears.

Jimenez's remains will be returned to his mother, but Duran was not sure Monday when that would be.

"We're planning to do it on a weekend, because some people cannot come on Monday or Tuesday," she said of funeral plans. "We waited 14 months to know his condition. Now we know."

Jimenez, who enlisted in the Army in 2001, was on guard duty in Baghdad on May 12, 2007, when his team was ambushed by terrorists, the U.S. Defense Department said. Four of his comrades were killed, while he and two other soldiers were captured.

More than a week later, Army teams discovered the body of one of Jimenez's squadmates, Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., in the Euphrates River. On June 5, 2007, Islamic State of Iraq, a terrorist group linked with al-Qaida, released a video that included the identity cards of Jimenez and fellow hostage Pvt. Byron Fouty, whose remains were also discovered last week.

Despite the disheartening evidence, Maria Duran said she remained optimistic that her son would be found alive. For months she and family friends would pray and reflect at a makeshift memorial in the rear of the house that included the soldier's picture, candles and a crucifix.

"I want to thank everybody for their support. We really appreciate it," said Andy Jimenez, 20, the soldier's brother.

The search picked up two weeks ago, according to the Defense Department, when the Army captured a suspected terrorist July 1 who knew where the soldiers' remains were. The suspect's information led investigators to a site near Jurf as-Sakhr, Iraq, eight days later, where the remains were found.

The remains were flown to a forensic lab in Dover, Del., July 8 and confirmed as belonging to Jimenez and Fouty the next day, the department said.

"I want everybody to remember that he was a wonderful man and he died for something that he liked," Maria Duran said.

Born in Flushing, Jimenez is survived by his wife, Yadelin Jimenez, 24, his parents and five younger brothers. He attended PS 143 in Corona before moving to Massachusetts. Family members remembered him as a caring boy who got along well with neighbors.

"He was always joking around with us. Everyone around here knew him," said Cindy Duran, 18, the soldier's cousin."

Family and friends said he lived, breathed and talked about the military all the time growing up, seeking to emulate his grandfather, who was in the armed services in the Dominican Republic.

Despite strong objections from his mother, Jimenez enlisted in the Army when he turned 18 and served two tours in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

"He said, 'Ma, that's what I feel, that's what I want,' " Maria Duran said.

Although the family said it supports the troops and prays for other prisoners of war, many urged President George W. Bush and other elected officials to end the Iraq War.

"It's been so long and too many people have been dying," Cindy Duran said.

Jeremy Walsh contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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