DETROIT (AP) -- For more than a year, Gordon Dibler held out hope that his stepson, Army Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, would return home from Iraq. Then military officials delivered the grim news that the body of Fouty and another soldier captured during an ambush south of Baghdad had been found.
"Every day that he's been missing has been a day of `what could have been' ... but after hearing the news ... I'm still in shock," Dibler said Thursday, after military officials came to his Oxford home and told him his stepson's body was one of two discovered in the Iraqi village of Jurf as Sakhr.
Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., and Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., were kidnapped in May 2007 in the volatile area south of Baghdad known as the "triangle of death." The body of a third captured soldier, Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., was found in the Euphrates River a year later.
Jimenez's father, Ramon "Andy" Jimenez, said he also received a visit Thursday from military officials who told him that his son's body and some of his son's personal effects had been discovered in Iraq. Speaking through a translator, he said the news "shattered all hope" the family had to "see Alex walk home on his own."
The military would not immediately confirm the mens' reports; the Pentagon generally waits 24 hours after notifying the next of kin before making a release public.
Lawrence Veterans Services Director Francisco Urena, who was at the Jimenez home Thursday night and translated for the soldier's father, said the family was given no details on the discovery of the bodies or the nature of the soldiers' deaths.
The men were identified using dental records, Dibler said, adding that the bodies of both soldiers were taken to Dover, Del., where military officials are expected to perform further tests to positively identify both men and determine a cause of death.
"It's a very sad relief," Dibler said. "But I know I have to go forward, not just for our family, but for the other men and women who are still doing their job over there."
He said he spent much of Thursday on the phone talking with family and friends, including Andy Jimenez. The soldiers' families had become friends over the past year, and Dibler said he always considered the two missing soldiers "our nation's sons."
"Byron went to Iraq to help people who couldn't help themselves," he said, adding that conditions there have since improved. "I know their sacrifice was not for nothing. It was not in vain."
Urena said the Jimenez family expects to receive Alex Jimenez's body in five days.
"He's very thankful for everybody from the community in Lawrence and throughout the U.S. who have provided him support during the difficult time the family has been through during the past 14 months," Urena said of Andy Jimenez.
The three soldiers, from the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 10th Mountain Division, disappeared on May 12, 2007, after insurgents ambushed their combat team 20 miles outside Baghdad. An Iraqi soldier and four other Americans from the same unit were killed in the attack.
The soldiers were from Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment - nicknamed the "Polar Bears."
Jim Waring of the family support group New England Care for Our Military said he spoke to Jimenez' and Fouty's families Thursday night.
"It's going to be tough on them," he said. "They really had hoped they were alive."
Waring said his group had a banner for the missing soldiers that read: "Together they serve our nation and together they will come home."
"They did come home together, just not the way we wanted," Waring said.
Associated Press writer Sylvia Wingfield in Boston contributed to this report.
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