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Crisis in Yugoslavia

Soldier's Capture Rallies L.A. Community

Support: Officials, friends and relatives attend vigil for Andrew Ramirez's safe return.

April 03, 1999|NANCY TREJOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The tightknit East Los Angeles community where Staff Sgt. Andrew A. Ramirez was raised grew closer Friday as friends, neighbors and family gathered to cope with the captured soldier's uncertain future.

About 100 people held a candlelight vigil Friday night on Eastmont Avenue, Ramirez's hometown street. Many of them signed a banner that read: "Ramirez family; we pray with you for Andrew's safe return."

"I have faith that he will be coming home soon," said the soldier's mother, Vivian Ramirez. "We will get our boy back."

Since his capture, she said, she has written him a letter "telling him how much I love him, how much I miss him." She said she was told that the International Committee of the Red Cross would forward the letter to him.

Ramirez, 24, and two other U.S. soldiers who were part of a peacekeeping unit stationed in Macedonia were captured by Yugoslav forces earlier this week.

Among those attending the vigil were Sheriff Lee Baca, county Supervisor Gloria Molina and state Sen. Hilda Solis (D-La Puente).

An outpouring of support was evident throughout the neighborhood, where flags and banners wishing the Ramirez family well adorned homes and businesses.

"He's so young," said neighbor Alba Rangel. "It's one of our own going out there and fighting. I support him because he's one of us."

Candles, flags tethered with yellow ribbon and a banner that read "Bring Andy Home" adorned the fence at the home of the soldier's father, Andrew Ramirez Sr.

Relatives spent Thursday night and Friday two doors down at the home of a cousin.

Family members were not sure what they would do for Easter.

"Right now," Ramirez's mother said, "I am not even thinking about Easter or Good Friday. I'm just taking each day one at a time until my son comes home."

The prospect of a military trial in Yugoslavia scares the family.

"I think it's devastating if they have to go to trial," said Olivia Rodriguez, another cousin.

Other relatives said they were optimistic that Ramirez and the other captives will return home.

"We know they're all going to be safe," said Steven Carcano, another cousin. "But it's heart-wrenching."

*

Times staff writer Joseph Trevino contributed to this report.

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