- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

4:34 p.m.

DALLAS (AP) — In his calls and notes from Iraq, Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca told relatives about his dangerous assignment at military checkpoints.

Now his family is hoping for his safe return after learning he was one of two servicemen missing in Iraq after an insurgent attack.

An umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq claimed in a statement today that it had kidnapped the two U.S. soldiers.

The U.S. military later confirmed that Pfc. Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Army Pfc. Thomas Lowell Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., were kidnapped during the attack Friday on their checkpoint south of Baghdad.

The Defense Department said Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed in the attack. All three soldiers were assigned to Fort Campbell, Ky.

The military said soldiers not far from the checkpoint heard small-arms fire and explosions, and a quick-reaction force reached the scene within 15 minutes. The force found one soldier dead but no signs of the other two. A farmer told the Associated Press that two soldiers had been captured by seven masked gunmen.

An Oregon National Guard spokeswoman, said she had a brief conversation with Pfc. Tucker’s parents and they said he joined the military “to do something positive for the country.”

Former Madras Mayor Rick Allen, whom Pfc. Tucker worked for at a gas station while he was a student at Madras High School, described the soldier as strong, street smart and mechanically inclined.

Pfc. Menchaca’s wife, 18-year-old Christina Menchaca, of Big Spring, Texas, said the military told her Saturday they were taking “every means possible to find him,” she said.

Mrs. Menchaca said she married her husband in September and he deployed in October.

“He enjoys being in the military,” Mrs. Menchaca said of her husband, from whom she received an e-mail last week. “That’s basically what he wants to do.”

Pfc. Menchaca’s mother, Maria Vasquez of Brownsville, Texas, said she last heard from her son a few weeks ago. Along with asking for some treats from home, like Cheetos and cleaning wipes, the soldier told his mother he was working at a checkpoint.

“I’m a little bit nervous, and I cannot sleep,” she said. “I worry about him.”

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