A 33-year-old soldier from Salem who lived and attended school in Joseph for 2 1/2 years in the early 1980s has been reported missing in action in Iraq.
According to a report in the Tuesday, March 25, edition of The Oregonian, Sgt. Donald Walters is reportedly missing in action after Iraqi forces ambushed a U.S. Army supply convoy near An Nasiriya. He is one of 12 soldiers missing in action after his unit, part of the 507th Maintenance Company attached to the 3rd Infantry, was ambushed in a pre-dawn raid Sunday.
Walters, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, is the son of Norman and Arlene Walters of Salem.
Walters' connection to Wallowa County was discovered by retired Joseph teacher Jim Clegg, who taught Walter's sister, Kimberly, in the fifth grade.
Clegg said when he first heard about a missing soldier from Salem, he didn't make a connection, until he heard later that Walter's sister was named Kim - and the right age to be the student he recalled - and her father named Norman. "Then I was 99 percent sure," said Clegg.
Norman Walters, a retired Air Force band musician, taught music at Joseph High School for two years beginning in the fall of 1982. According to a Chieftain story at that time, Walters and his wife Arlene had three children, including Don, 12, and Kimberly, 10, and Norman, 8.
Reached by telephone, Kimberly Cieslak confirmed the family's former residency in Wallowa County.
"He was my favorite teacher," said Cieslak of Clegg, expressing surprise that he had remembered her and obtained her phone number.
She said that her father had talked to NBC news anchorman Tom Brokow, as well as CNN reporters and Good Morning, America, and was scheduled to appear on Larry King Live Tuesday night.
"Their phone has not stopped ringing," she said of her parents.
"We're all on auto pilot, numb," said Cieslak about the realization that her older brother was "unaccounted for" in the war. "I keep thinking that with hundreds of thousands of soldiers there ... it has to be my brother."
She said the thing she can't stop worrying about is how her brother might be treated. "Saddam is a horrible person, and they have no value for human life," she said