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Military career a boyhood dream

Sgt. James Riley as he appeared in a video after his capture in Iraq
Sgt. James Riley as he appeared in a video after his capture in Iraq

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(CNN) -- Sgt. James Riley, one of seven missing U.S. prisoners of war freed on Sunday, is a native of New Zealand but moved to the United States with his family when he was a young boy.

On March 23, Iraqi troops ambushed the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas, and Riley was one of 12 from the group to be captured, killed or determined missing.

His family was told by the Pentagon that Riley was one of the prisoners of war found safe and sound Sunday just north of Baghdad, a family representative told CNN.

"[A U.S. military official] notified us, confirmed our son was one of them. They're in good condition," Athol Riley, James' father, said.

The news "hasn't fully set in yet," and it is "tinged also with a certain amount of regret for the others" who won't come home alive, the elder Riley said.

Riley, 31, was born in New Zealand and lived there until he was 10 years old before moving to Pennsauken, New Jersey, The New Zealand Herald reported on its Web site. He has not revisited his homeland, but maintains dual citizenship, the article said.

The Courier Post, a New Jersey newspaper, reported his parents said he expressed interest in a military career as a young boy and joined the Army 13 years ago after graduating from Pennsauken High School.

"He joined the Army and would have gone to the first Gulf War, but it finished before he got there, although he had orders to go," his mother told Paula Zahn earlier on CNN's American Morning. "He's been in Korea twice and Saudi Arabia and various other places."

Riley, who is single, taught himself the guitar and is a science fiction buff who is making a chain mail shirt for himself, the Courier Post reported.

In the Army, Riley repairs tanks, services the Patriot missile battery and does a substantial amount of welding, his father said. Athol Riley described his son to the Courier Post as practical-minded, strong and stubborn.


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