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Missing Corona soldier’s remains returned home

Family and friends of Sgt. Alex Jimenez carried the fallen Corona soldier's body through the streets of his hometown during a funeral procession last Thursday following the discovery of his remains in Iraq last month.

Jimenez, who lived on 37th Drive in Corona, went missing May 12, 2007, when his brigade was ambushed by insurgents, the U.S. Defense Department said. The soldier's family had been hoping and praying for more than a year for his safe return home after he was declared missing in action, but his remains were found July 10.

More than 50 family members and friends marched through the streets of Corona, from the corner of 114th Street and 37th Avenue to Jimenez's home and then to the Rivera Funeral Home on 37th Avenue. Jimenez's funeral took place Saturday at Corona's Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church.

"This is a very sad day," said Griselda Duran, Jimenez's aunt. "He is a hero to all of us. He fought and gave his life for his country. He left us without knowing that he would not return. Ever since he was a little boy, he wanted to be a hero."

Four other members of his brigade were killed when they were ambushed last year, the Defense Department said. On June 5 of this year, 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 month.

In early July, the Army captured a suspected terrorist who led investigators to a site near Jurf as-Sakhr, Iraq, where Jimenez and Fouty's remains were discovered, the Defense Department said.

"President Bush should stop this war," Duran, the soldier's aunt, said. "It's terrible what's happening — all the families destroyed by this war."

Maria del Rosario Duran, Jimenez's mother, walked with mourners alongside the hearse carrying her son's body during last week's procession as family members wailed loudly. The procession halted in front of Jimenez's house, where mourners held up a banner of the fallen soldier, as well as a large wreath containing yellow and white flowers.

Jimenez, who was born in Flushing, is survived by his wife, Yadelin Jimenez, 24; his parents; and five younger brothers. He attended PS 143 in Corona before moving to Massachusetts.

"Alex is back in his hometown of Queens, but it is a very sad homecoming," City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) said at last week's procession. "So, we will give him a hero's welcome. I don't want to politicize this, but I've always had reservations about this war. Jackson Heights and Corona have lost four young men in this war. We have paid a very high price."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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