03 August 2006
Sgt Donald Walters stripped naked executed-Iraq
Donald Ralph Walters
507th Maintenance Company
U.S. ArmyHometown: Kansas City
Died where: Unlisted.
Died when: March 23, 2003
Cause of Death: Walters was originally thought to have been killed in the same convoy where Jessica Lynch was captured. Military officials later said he was captured by Iraqi fighters and executed while in custody.
Donald Walters was a military man, through and through. He grew up around the Air Force, until his father, Norman, retired, said his mother, Arlene Walters. A few months after graduating from high school in Salem, Ore., Donald Walters joined the Army and served in the first Gulf War.
He served in the Army Reserves until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inspired him to return to active duty, his mother said.
Walters worked as a guard at the Kansas City jail until he returned to Iraq, leaving behind his wife, Stacie, and three children.
But despite his love of the military and law enforcement, the father of three had a gentle side and a love of fishing.
"Our entire relationship revolved around going fishing," Stacie Walters said. "I don't know how many fishing trips we took. We took so many, I lost count."
Before he left for Iraq the second time, he penned a children's book, "My Very Special Fishing Trip," which recounted his first fishing trip with his father, Arlene Walters said. After his death, Donald Walters' friends and family arranged for the book to be illustrated and printed for those who knew him.
Donald Walters' friends and family will remember him as a Silver Star-awarded soldier and someone who would go out of his way to help a stranger.
"We were joined at the hip," Stacie Walters said. "He was
Unbearable Emptiness By Nicholas D. Kristof The New York Times
Thursday 28 July 2004
Salem, Ore. - Ever since a group of Iraqis told me last year about seeing a redheaded American soldier who was captured, held naked and then executed, I've been haunted by the question of his identity.
The first clues were in Nasiriya, Iraq, where in the aftermath of the war I interviewed the doctors and hospital staff who had cared for Pfc. Jessica Lynch. They said that the Pentagon had exaggerated the drama of her rescue, but what I could never put out of my mind was their tale of another American, whose name they never knew.
Abdul Hadi, an ambulance driver, tried to pick up a male American P.O.W. being held by Saddam Fedayeen. The American, he said, had been stripped naked and handcuffed, but he was allowed to smoke a cigarette while under guard. The prisoner, Mr. Hadi said, was about 19, with short red hair, lightly injured in the leg.
The hospital staff said the guards refused to give up the American and threatened the ambulance crew with guns and grenades. So the ambulance retreated - and several hours later, the same P.O.W. was brought to the hospital as a corpse, shot dead.
I mentioned this American in a sentence in my column at the time, but cautiously, because I couldn't match him with any known P.O.W., and I later wondered if the whole tale had been concocted.
Then I heard about Sgt. Donald Walters. He was a cook who vanished in the same firefight in which Jessica Lynch was captured, and his body was later recovered in Nasiriya. But some details didn't fit. He was 33, not 19. And his hair was said to be blond, not red.
So I visited Sergeant Walters's parents, Norman and Arlene Walters, at their home here in Salem, Ore. As they sat in their living room, heavy with memorials, photos and grief, Mr. and Mrs. Walters said that Don's hair had actually been reddish-blond, he had been injured in the leg, and he had smoked. Photos also show he looked young for his age.
What's more, the U.S. military recently informed Mr. and Mrs. Walters that Don had been captured before being shot.
It also seems that the heroism originally attributed to Private Lynch may actually have been Sergeant Walters's. Iraqi radio intercepts had described a blond U.S. soldier fighting tenaciously, and the Army this year awarded him a posthumous Silver Star in implicit acknowledgment that he was probably that soldier.
The citation reads: "His actions and selfless courage under fire resulted in saving lives of several other members of the convoy" - perhaps including Private Lynch. His cover fire allowed fellow soldiers to escape, while he remained alone in a hostile city; when he ran out of ammunition, he ran but was captured. So it looks as if the paramount hero of that day was not the one we thought, but rather a soldier who died anonymously.
Sergeant Walters left three children, then 9 months, 6 years and 8 years old. A veteran of the first gulf war, he had re-enlisted out of patriotism after 9/11.
Red, white and blue are everywhere in Mr. and Mrs. Walters's house, and Mr. Walters says that if he were president, he would threaten to nuke Baghdad unless the insurgency stopped, although in his next breath he backs off. I asked Mrs. Walters if she felt that her son had fallen for a noble purpose.
"That's hard," she said, pausing. "I have to feel that way, because so many soldiers have lost their lives."
One of the revelations in the 9/11 commission report was the casualness of the resort to war. On the afternoon of Sept. 11, Donald Rumsfeld spoke of attacking Saddam Hussein, and President Bush began asking about Iraq the next day. Older men blithely found a war for younger men and women to die in.
The result is the unbearable emptiness in homes like the Walters's all across America - and, even more often, in Iraq. The American victims are disproportionately from working-class families, not well represented either in White House meetings or in this newspaper's readership. It is those families of the dead and wounded who are bearing 99.9 percent of the burden of this war.
When hawks say that the Iraq war was worth the price,
Killed in Action: 507th Maintenance Company
The following soldiers of the 507th were killed in action (KIA):
Specialist Jamal R. Addison, 22, Roswell, Georgia
Master Sergeant Robert J. Dowdy, 38, of Cleveland, Ohio, who was the Company First Sergeant.
Private Ruben Estrella-Soto, 18, of El Paso, Texas.
Private First Class Howard Johnson II, 21, of Mobile, Alabama.
Specialist James M. Kiehl, 22, of Comfort, Texas
Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, 35, of Pecos, Texas.
Private First Class Lori Piestewa, 23, of Tuba City, Arizona, first female soldier killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Private Brandon Sloan, 19, of Bedford Heights, Ohio.
Sergeant Donald Walters, 33, of Kansas City, Missouri.
Pics of American soldiers killed in Iraq