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Yugoslavia POW To Leave Army

September 25, 2000

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) _ The last of three American soldiers captured during NATO’s military campaign against Yugoslavia is leaving the Army.

Staff Sgt. Andrew A. Ramirez, who has spent eight years in the Army, said he wants to remain with the military, possibly as a recruiter for the National Guard, but he expects to leave the Army in a few weeks.

Ramirez, Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Stone and Spc. Steven Gonzales were captured by Yugoslavian forces on March 31, 1999, while on a reconnaissance mission near the Kosovo and Macedonia border.

They spent 32 days in captivity before the Rev. Jesse Jackson negotiated their release May 2, seven weeks before the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia ended.

Stone and Gonzales have both left the Army.

Ramirez, a 26-year-old Los Angeles native, spoke to the local chapter of the Association of the United States Army on Saturday and described the ordeal.

``They dragged us through the village, put a pistol at Stone’s head, they were yelling at us,″ said Ramirez, who suffered broken ribs and other injuries. ″(People in the village) literally came out of their houses, throwing rocks at us, kicking us.″

The three were interrogated for seven days, with hoods over their heads and their hands cuffed behind their backs, he said. He said he was fed once a day, and if he moved his hands or legs he was hit or kicked.

``At first I really didn’t think it changed me much,″ Ramirez said, ``but now I think I don’t take things for granted.″

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