FORT DRUM, N.Y. – Fort Drum soldiers said an ambush in Iraq that left four of their comrades dead and three missing will only work to unite America and strengthen the military's determination.
"If this is a scare tactic to undermine our resolve, they need to realize our soldiers are trained killers and don't scare," said Spc. Dorothy Drake of Los Angeles. "This is more incentive to finish the job.
"The Army is family. This will bring us together. It will bring the country together."
The Pentagon identified the seven soldiers, including naming three of the four killed in the weekend attack near Mahmoudiya, but it was waiting for more testing before the identity of the fourth dead soldier could be confirmed. All were members of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., was among them.
Three weeks earlier, Anzack's family had gotten a scare when rumors began circulated that he had died in Iraq. His high school even posted a message outside the campus reading: "In Loving Memory Joe Anzack Class of 2005."
His father, Joseph Anzack, told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday that he called the Red Cross about the rumors, and military commanders were able to get his son to a phone.
"He called me up and said, 'Dad, it's me,"' the elder Anzack recalled. "I can't wait for that to happen again."
"It made me realize how much unfinished business that we have," he said. "Just getting to know each other."
Military officials confirmed the deaths of Pfc. Daniel W. Courneya, 19, of Vermontville, Mich.; Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tenn.; and Pfc. Christopher E. Murphy, 21, of Lynchburg, Va.
The other soldiers were identified as Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev.; Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.; Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich.; and Anzack. The Pentagon said one of those four was among the dead, but it could not confirm which one. Anzack's father said Wednesday that he was certain his son was among the missing.
Fouty earned his GED and enlisted in the Army while living with a friend's family in Michigan, the friend's mother, Cathy Conger, said. She last saw him in December when he returned home following boot camp. The well-mannered youth she remembered was suddenly grown up, she said, dressed smartly in a military uniform.
"He looked so handsome," Conger said, adding that Fouty told her then that he was headed for Iraq. "He wasn't scared. He was real brave about it."
Courneya was well-known in Vermontville, a small community southwest of Lansing. He was a member of the school's track and soccer teams and played clarinet in the band.
At Maple Valley High School, Courneya's death was announced Monday over the school's public address system, and a moment of silence was observed, said school official Kelly Zank. Students put together a tribute of photos, posters and a picture of him in uniform, Zank said.
At Fort Drum, some people were frustrated as they waited for news.
"Everyone here is concerned," said Sgt. Bryan Flinner, a six-year veteran who returned home early from deployment to Afghanistan because of a head injury. "Even if you don't know a soldier personally, there's always a connection because of what we do. It's frustrating, but there's nothing we can do back here."
Pvt. Ernie Rodriguez, 19, of Sacramento, Calif., heard about his missing military colleagues while awaiting his first deployment. The kidnappings did nothing to change his mind about the job, he said.
"We need to stay concentrated on our training," Rodriguez said. "This just motivates me more to be the best soldier I can be."