For the past few years, Maria del Rosario Duran has gone to bed every night with her cell phone nestled underneath her pillow, hoping to get a call from her son Alex Jimenez.
Yet, during the last year, she has received no such call.
Corona Specialist Jimenez, 26, has been missing in action or captured in Iraq since May 12, 2007, after his convoy’s unit came under fire from insurgents near Al Taqa, Iraq.
Jimenez was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division’s Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment based out of Fort Hood, NY and four of his fellow soldiers died that day during the attack.
Jimenez, along with Private Byron Fouty, 19, of Michigan and Private First Class Joseph Anzack, 20, of California, went missing that day, and they have been listed as missing in action or captured ever since.
Military personnel have been searching for the captured soldiers, and in October of 2007, they found Jimenez’s gun seven miles from where the attack took place, but since then, there have been few updates about their status.
Meanwhile, Duran, who lives in a modest house with her sisters and Alex’s two brothers, Andy, 20 and Bryant 16, goes on the Internet every day and searches her son’s name to see if there is any news.
“My sister told me, don’t check too much because you will be depressed,” Duran said. “I said no, I need to know what’s going on with my son. I need to know everything. God will give me the strength.”
Although many believe that as time goes by the chances of finding Jimenez alive continues to decrease, Duran still holds out hope. About a month ago, she received a letter from the military saying they are continuing to search for the missing soldiers.
“I want to tell them not to stop,” Duran said. “I’m very worried about my son, and I want him to come home.”
Meanwhile, this Friday, Duran and many of her family members will travel from Corona up to Lawrence, MA, where Jimenez’ father Andy lives, to participate in a day of prayer with members of Fouty’s family.
“This is not a memorial mass or drive,” said Jim Wareing, Founder of the New England Caring for our Military (NECFOM), who is organizing the events for Saturday. “This is really to honor the lives of Byron and Alex. The families do believe that they are alive.”
The day will begin with a military flyover before a motorcycle ride honoring Jimenez and Fouty commences. Later on that day, the two families will join with friends, community supporters and members of the soldiers’ army unit to celebrate mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Lawrence.
During the past year, Duran has become close with members of Fouty’s family, and she believes it is important for them to be together on Saturday.
“I think it’s good because we are in the same situation as they are,” Duran said.
Although Duran knows the ceremony on Saturday will be emotional, the next two days will only get tougher.
Sunday, May 11, will be Duran’s first Mother’s Day knowing that her son is missing.
“You can’t imagine how difficult that day is going to be for me,” said Duran, whose mother also died in December of 2006.
When Duran’s mother died, Alex Jimenez was serving in Iraq. The Army allowed him to leave to attend his grandmother’s funeral in the Dominican Republic - which is the last time Duran saw her son.
After the funeral, Jimenez returned to duty in Iraq, calling his mother as often as possible to check in on his family.
On May 4, 2007, Duran was visiting a friend in Coral Springs, FL, when her cell phone rang. It was Alex.
Duran said the two spoke for a while, and she was happy to hear from him, but that was the last time she spoke to him.
Next Monday, May 12, one year after Jimenez and Fouty went missing, family and friends of Jimenez will gather at Duran’s home to pray and celebrate mass - something Duran said has been a constant in her family’s life during the past year.
“We will be together - family and friends to pray here in the house because that is the thing my son needs the most - people to pray for him,” Duran said.