Lori Ann Piestewa was not only the first woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in the Iraq War, she was also the first Native American woman to die in combat with the United States Armed Forces.

Piestewa was a Native American of Hopi descent. Her native name was White Bear Girl.

Hailing from her hometown of Tuba City, Ariz., Piestewa was from a military family. She was the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. Her own interest in the military began in high school, where she participated in a junior ROTC program. Piestewa enlisted in the Army and was attached to the 507th Maintenance Company in Fort Bliss, Texas and deployed to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Her company, the 507th, was infamously ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.

Piestewa was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy when one of their vehicles broke down. They stopped to make a repair, then continued north to catch up to the rest of the convoy. Along the way, they made a wrong turn and were ambushed by Iraqi troops.

The missing numbered 15 total. A few days later, Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital. Nine members of the 507th were killed in action, including Piestewa. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee she was driving.

Piestewa left behind a son, a daughter, and a mother and father, Terry and Percy Piestewa, who toured the country attending memorial services held in her honor.

Each year, dozens of young men and women just like Piestewa leave the Hopi and Navajo reservations, which converge in Tuba City, all searching for something they can't find at home.

Some hope to further their education, knowing they might not be able to put it to use if they return to their reservations where job shortages and unemployment are endemic. Others chase the dollars into the cities, hunting the array of jobs that eludes them on tribal lands.

Eventually, many are drawn back home by the forbidding but beautiful landscapes of the high desert and by the intangible lure of a more traditional and tranquil lifestyle on the reservation. To them, America's big cities are too frenetic. The washout rate among college-bound kids is 80 percent, said Bobby Robbins, a Navajo employment counselor. The reason: trouble adjusting to the hectic and impersonal life they find there.

Against that backdrop, an inordinate number of young Native Americans make the military their destination, if only short-term, because it offers instant money, free on-the-job training, decent benefits, a structured and patriotic environment and a line on the resume that says "veteran." It gives them a leg up if they decide to compete for prized government jobs back home on "the rez."

Responses to "Lori Piestewa: Remembering Hopi woman warrior that gave her life for her country"

  1. Unknown says:

    Awe my native sister in will never be forgotten. Your sacrifice is duly noted. Oooooooooorah my sister.

  2. Unknown says:

    Thank you for your sacrifice. You are not forgotten.

  3. Anonymous says:

    As Native American people, we gave this country the best warriors to fight for our freedom and as a Veteran organization "Alaska Native Veterans Association-Chapter-1", we once honored her Family, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, with a huge moose horn and a Gold plaque engraved to take back to AZ. RIP and thank you (Mahsi choh) and may God be with family.

  4. Unknown says:

    You were honored by my students in my Native American class at Neumann College 2003-06. Thank you seems so lame a comment, hoping your children are well and adjusted.

  5. Unknown says:

    I have few words. But I hope her sacrifice and bravery consoles her parents and children alike.

  6. The sun begins rising painting the sand
    The Life Of two nations has come here to stand
    Children’s call left to the night
    No one to Answer a battle to fight
    The sunlight now gone no where to stand
    The life of two nations bleeds in the sand

    Lori Piestewa
    The First Native American Woman
    To Lay Down her Life in
    Combat Operations of
    United states Army

  7. Anonymous says:

    The best and brightest have laid down their life for the Taliban and Israel Too

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for posting her story… I pray for her children and for her parents and her soul as well… I know there is no death so I pray that she hears all the prayers and knows that her sacrifice will not be forgotten, even by those of us who are not native Americans and never knew her... My son is military also and I never forget those whose stories I have heard or read

Write a comment