Cpl. Joseph Anzack Jr., the soldier whose body was found floating in the Euphrates River two weeks ago, was buried today at Arlington National Cemetery, ending a cruel ordeal for his family.
Anzack's mother, father, and younger sister comforted each other during the brief graveside service for the 20-year-old gunner who, like so many of those buried around him, played high school football and couldn't wait to join the Army.
"One of those kids who would run through a wall for you," his high school coach told the Los Angeles Times.
Photo caption: Joseph Anzack Sr. mourns at the gravesite of his son. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
In late April, a rumor spread through Anzack's hometown of Torrance, Calif., that he had been killed in Iraq. But the Red Cross was able to track him down, and he called home to reassure his stricken parents that he was alive and well. He updated his MySpace Web page, "im not dead. im still kickin."
Then, on May 12, Mother's Day, his patrol was ambushed in Yusufiyah, about 40 miles south of Baghdad. Four American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed. Three Americans, including Anzack, vanished, presumably captured.
"Now, he's missing for real," his mother Theresa told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm praying like I never prayed before."
But her prayers went for naught. Eleven days later, on May 23, Anzack's badly brutalized body was discovered in the river near Musayyib, 12 miles from the ambush.
"We said a prayer for the other two [missing] boys, then sat around and talked about Joseph, just sharing the love of my son and why we all loved him," his father, Joseph Sr., told the Torrance Daily Breeze.
The other two soldiers, Spc. Alex Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty, are still missing, despite a massive search in the area known as the "Triangle of Death." An insurgent video claims they were also killed in captivity.
Editor's note: John files internal NBC News dispatches every time he attends a burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Brian has asked him to post those regularly here, which he'll do on Fridays from here on out. A Vietnam veteran who earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service, John is also a 28-year veteran of NBC News.
Also, because we are recognizing those service men and women buried at Arlington National Cemetery, we want to offer you the chance to share the stories of other fallen military personnel either in personal remembrance and reflection or through public funeral or memorial announcements. All verifiable submissions for service men and women who died in combat are welcome, as are photos of the deceased. Click here to submit yours.