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The Emotional Stakes Carried by Soldiers

The announcement that two kidnapped American soldiers in Iraq apparently have been killed was preceded by an agonized hope that they would be found alive. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports about the deep emotional bond between soldiers and their families, as well as the commitment the soldiers have to each other.

United States military spokesman Major General William Caldwell said the bodies of two soldiers were found near a power plant southwest of Baghdad. He said D.N.A. testing was needed to confirm that they are those of Private Kristian Menchaca and Private Thomas Tucker.

A senior Iraqi defense official said the bodies showed signs of barbaric torture. Terrorists linked to al-Qaida posted an Internet message taking responsibility for their deaths. In Houston, Texas, where Private Menchaca grew up, his brother Julio was in disbelief. "I'm still kind of like in shock that, of all the soldiers, it's my brother," he said.

Private Tucker's family in Madras, Oregon, released a voice-mail recording that their son made in February. "Everything's going to be okay,” he said. “I'm going to serve my country. Be proud of me. I love you guys. I know you love me." Private Tucker's message underscores an understanding that the deadly physical hazards faced by soldiers expose their family and friends to emotional risk.

Ron Young, a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot, was held captive for 22 days at the start of the Iraq War. He says the most difficult part of the ordeal was thinking about the pain his captivity and possible death would inflict on those who love him. "It's one of those things that I dreaded the entire time I was in captivity,” he said. “It's just something that weighs on your mind, and, of course, the entire time that you're there going through it, you're thinking about your family and how much you love them and just want them to know you care about them so much."

Ron Young was reunited with his family after being rescued by U.S. Marines. He says soldiers do not take their risk lightly, adding that families need to understand this. "We think of it almost in a sacred way, you know, that we're willing to make a sacrifice that a lot of people are not willing to make.” He said, “And in that, we would just hope that our families would honor what we are willing to do for our country, and our fellow soldiers."

The Pentagon says more than 8,000 coalition forces, Iraqi police and army forces were involved in the search for Privates Tucker and Menchaca. One coalition soldier was killed during the effort and 12 others were wounded. Two enemy soldiers were killed, and 78 were detained.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas called for a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor the two fallen soldiers and a third serviceman who was killed during the kidnapping of his comrades.