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Missing Soldier Found Dead From Apparent Suicide After Leaving New Mexico Fort
Army officials today confirmed they found the body of a 19-year-old soldier who vanished this week from a desert training range near Fort Bliss and apparently killed himself.
Searchers found Spc. John R. Fish, clad in his Army uniform, Wednesday afternoon while flying over a patch of rugged desert surrounding the Dona Ana Base Camp, about 30 miles from Fort Bliss in New Mexico, said Jean Offutt, a Fort Bliss spokeswoman. His body was found about 11/2 miles north of the camp.
More than 1,000 soldiers spent nearly three days searching parts of the 230,000-acre desert training range that surrounds the camp for any sign of Fish. Wednesday morning his cap was found about 11/2 miles north of the camp. A partially buried pile of ammunition,
Spc. John R. Fish including bullets that would fit in the rifle Fish had, was later found about 21/2 miles to the west.
The El Paso Times reported the death in today's newspaper, based on reports from the New Mexico State Police.
Fish suffered what investigators believe to be a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Offutt said. It is unclear when Fish died, but investigators suspect his body had been in the desert for more than a day, Offutt said.
Fish, an ammunitions specialist with the 41st Fires Brigade, a field artillery unit based at Fort Hood in Central Texas, vanished Monday morning wearing his camouflage uniform and carrying a squad automatic weapon. The Paso Robles, Calif., man was last seen at the southern perimeter of the camp.
Offutt said Fish's weapon was found near his body.
Fish reportedly walked away from the training camp Monday morning after being there about a week. He was carrying only an unloaded automatic rifle and 2.5 quarts of water.
The search for Fish, 19, of Paso Robles, Calif., was kept mostly within the 230,000-acre Doña Ana Range Complex because he had left his wallet, which included his bank cards and identification, in his barracks. Officers in the brigade said it wasn't unusual for Fish to carry his weapon because he had been trained never to leave it behind.
Fish left a note saying he had to take care of some things and wouldn't be coming back. Friends and fellow soldiers were concerned, but they also said that, although he mostly kept his feelings to himself, he didn't seem depressed or angry in recent days.
Friends described Fish as a man who liked to hike off by himself. But his mother, Cathy Fish, who lives in Paso Robles, said her son only recently had acquired a car, so he was in the habit of walking places so that he didn't have to bother people for rides.
"He's basically a normal, average person," Cathy Fish said when she was interviewed by telephone Wednesday afternoon before her son's body was found. "I'd ask him if he wanted a ride and he'd say, 'No.' We live in a small town, so it's not that difficult to get around. He's a good soldier. He had no reason whatsoever to leave his unit."
She said it made sense that he might have become disoriented after deciding to walk somewhere.
Friends in Fish's unit -- the 41st Fires Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas -- said they were surprised that Fish had apparently walked away. Although he had served for a year in Baghdad, his time was mostly spent "behind the wire" in Camp Liberty, they said, and he had never shown signs of battle fatigue. A fellow soldier was killed about a month ago in a car accident, an event that affected many in the unit, Yahn said.
Fish wrote short stories that tended toward science fiction and fantasy with the usual dark and apocalyptic tones. However, those who read the stories said it revealed a talented writer, not a tortured soul.
Cpl. John Carter, a friend of Fish's, scared up lizards and rabbits as he beat the bush with others in the search line.
"I wish I had spent more time with him, talked to him," Carter said when asked what was going through his mind as he walked the dunes, avoiding thorn-filled brush. "Let him know how much you care in case he has doubts that you do.""Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton
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