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- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Sgt. Donald Ralph Walters
Died March 23, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
33, of Salem, Ore.; assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company, Fort Bliss, Texas; captured by Iraqi fighters in an ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq, and later executed. At the time, the Defense Department said Walters was killed in the ambush. Officials revised that statement on May 27, 2004.
Army awards Silver Star to slain soldier from Fort Bliss
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — A year after he was buried, the Army honored Sgt. Donald Walters on Monday with the Silver Star for the actions in Iraq that cost him his life.
Walters, 33, formerly of Kansas City, Mo., received the commendation posthumously during a ceremony at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, where he is buried. Walters was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas, that was ambushed in southern Iraq on March 23, 2003.
Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, who served in Iraq as the commanding general of the Army’s V Corps, presented the Silver Star to Walters’ widow, Stacie, and his mother, Arlene Walters, who has sought a better accounting of her son’s death to reflect his actions.
In the ambush, which occurred just days after the start of the war, 11 soldiers were killed and six captured, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was initially credited with putting up a fierce fight during the battle. Lynch has said she did not fire a shot during the ambush. Lynch was later rescued from an Iraqi hospital.
“The exact events during the ambush in Nasariyah will never be completely known but to God and by those who perished in the struggle,” Wallace said.
Walters, of Salem, Ore., had initially been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Autopsy reports indicate he died of gunshot and two stab wounds to the abdomen.
Wallace said Walters displayed a courage that reflected his gallantry to serve his country and fellow soldiers caught in the ambush.
His mother and U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., have sought an Army investigation to correct earlier reports that credited Lynch with holding off Iraqi troops.
Walters, a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, is also survived by three daughters.
In the Army on and off since the year after high school, Don Walters, 33, had misgivings about going back to the Persian Gulf.
His father, Norman Walters of Salem, Ore., said his son was traumatized by his experience guarding Iraqi prisoners in 1991. “He didn’t want to go,” his father said. “But he didn’t have a choice. He had his orders. He felt it was his duty.”
Before he left for overseas, he told his mother he had a feeling he might not be coming back. Over the weekend the family learned that his premonition had come true.
“We want to thank the entire community for their thoughts and prayers and everything they’ve done for us,” the family said in a statement.
Walters grew up in Colorado where his father was a trombone player at the Air Force Academy. The family moved to Salem in 1981 where he graduated from North Salem High School.
During the 1991 Gulf War, “he was very traumatized,” his father said. “He was a changed person when he returned. He was nervous and suffered from terrible thoughts and nightmares.”
He left the Army in 1992 and joined the Reserves. He got married, had two daughters and moved to Kansas City, Mo. He remarried and had another daughter. To give his family greater stability, Walters re-enlisted last year and became a cook. He left for Kuwait in February.
— USA Today and The Associated Press