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WAR WITH IRAQ/ CAPTIVES AND CASUALTIES

New Mexico Town Ready to Pull Together in Support of POW

Alamogordo, which lost one of its own in attacks of Sept. 11, is staggered by news soldier is taken.

March 24, 2003|Scott Gold | Times Staff Writer

Residents of a small New Mexico town were reeling Sunday night with word that one of their own -- a 23-year-old Army specialist -- apparently was among the soldiers taken prisoner by Iraqi troops during a fierce battle.

Joseph Hudson, a soldier connected to a U.S. Army maintenance unit, was seen in footage taken by Iraqi television. He did not appear to be injured.

"He's a real nice kid," said Joan Griggs, a resident of Alamogordo, N.M., whose daughter is friends with Hudson. "He's somebody to be proud of."

Military officials have confirmed that 12 soldiers from the unit are unaccounted for. They were believed to have been ambushed and either captured or killed during the fight over the southeastern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. President Bush has promised that the military will do everything in its power to secure the safe return of the soldiers, and Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations has promised that his country will not mistreat the POWs.

Some foreign television networks carried the video of the soldiers, and Hudson's mother recognized her son while watching war coverage on a Filipino television station to which she subscribes.

"He's been captured," Anecita Hudson told the Associated Press. "From my point of view, he looked so scared."

Joseph Hudson moved with his mother to Alamogordo -- about 90 miles north of El Paso -- in 1991 after his father was killed in a motorcycle accident. Hudson, who graduated from Alamogordo High School in 1998, had been studying education at New Mexico State University before he joined the Army, Griggs said.

Hudson was stationed at Ft. Bliss in western Texas. U.S. military officials have not released the identities of the captured soldiers, but several of the POWs appear to have been based at Ft. Bliss.

Alamogordo is in a remote patch of New Mexico and has just 35,000 residents.

But it now has been touched by both the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq -- a run of bad luck that had some residents shaking their heads in dismay.

Alfred Marchand, 44, who spent 21 years as a police officer in Alamogordo, had retired and become a United Airlines flight attendant. He was working on Flight 175, which struck the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

The town banded together then, and is preparing to do the same to show support for the Hudson family, residents said.

"It just broke your heart. And if this boy turns out to be the boy that we think it is, it's just going to be so sad again," Griggs said. "He's another boy that everybody in town will know."

The capture of Hudson hits particularly hard, they said, because of the large, tight-knit military community in Alamogordo. The town is about 10 miles from Holloman Air Force Base, where Hudson's father was once stationed, east of the White Sands Missile Range and north of Ft. Bliss.

"Anytime something happens to any of our troops, especially someone who is a native, it just puts Alamogordo into devastation," said Inez M. Moncada, a city commissioner for the last 16 years.

"We are such a united little city. The city just came together when Al was killed. You had to be here to see how united the city was. And I'm sure this will be the same thing."

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