Local News

Local Man Reacts to His Friend's Capture in Yugoslavia

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GARNER — John Ramsey just got out of the U.S. Army two weeks ago, so he's been following the story about the U.S. soldiers captured by Serb troops near the Yugoslav-Macedonia border with a lot of interest.

None of the U.S. soldiers that were captured on Wednesday are from North Carolina, but when the first pictures of those soldiers were broadcast, Ramsey was stunned to learn that one of them is his good friend and fellow army scout Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez.

"I couldn't believe it," Ramsey says. "And I still can't. I'm in shock."

Ramsey has seen pictures of his friend Ramirez, splashed across newspapers and on television for days.

Ramsey remembers the happier times when they were stationed in Germany.

"He's a quiet guy, but he's funny when you get to know him and he's a great friend to have."

As Army scouts, Ramsey and Ramirez conducted reconnaissance missions together -- the same kind of mission Ramirez was on when he was captured.

Ramsey doesn't believe Serb claims that the American soldiers had crossed into Kosovo. He's outraged that the Serbs are holding three Americans prisoner, and may try them.

Ramsey describes Ramirez as one of the best at what he does.

"I have the utmost confidence in Sgt. Ramirez's navigational skills. He's a highly knowledgeable soldier and I don't believe they were in enemy territory," Ramsey says.

Now he's waiting anxiously to learn the fate of Ramirez and the other soldiers.

"They're just using them like it's been said before -- for propaganda. I pray that nothing happens to those three."

The United States has sent a message to the Serbs demanding that the soldiers be released.

Meantime, court proceedings began Friday against Ramirez, Spc. Steven Gonzalez and Sgt. Chris Stone. The investigating judge says it's unclear whether the soldiers would eventually be charged.

A prominent Yugoslav lawyer says the soldiers could be charged with "waging aggression." A conviction would carry a 15-year prison term.