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Lori Piestewa was killed in action in 2003.

Honoring the Fallen | Lori Piestewa

Shelly Goode-Burgoyne
PCDP Social Media Strategist,
OIF I and III combat veteran, mother and military spouse.

It is easy to confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day; as a combat veteran of the Iraq War, even I can mistake the two because of how veterans are the intimate observers of their fellow soldiers’ violent deaths and their devastating impact on families back home. Confusing these two days is understandable – they are fundamentally linked. 

Offering our remembrance to such a large group of war dead can feel overwhelming. As a veteran, I find it easier to honor a few, or even one in the name of many. For me, the loss of Lori Piestewa, a 24 year old Hopi soldier from Tuba City, Arizona profoundly affected me and resides in my soul even today. Maybe it is because I am a woman, maybe it is because I was deployed to Iraq when she died, or maybe it is because we were both from Arizona – but for whatever reason – I saw myself in her.

Lori Piestewa was a member of a U.S. Army support unit. In the early days of the war, as her Platoon was traveling in a convoy through southern Iraq, they were ambushed. A rocket-propelled grenade struck Piestewa’s Humvee, and she, along with several others, survived the attack with severe injuries. However, they were all taken prisoner in the minutes that followed. 

For more than a week, the Piestewa family, and Tuba City, awaited news of Lori’s status. Signs were hung out telling people: “Put your porch light on, show Lori the way home.” Piestewa died of her wounds soon after her capture. She was one of the first American women to be taken Prisoner of War. 

Piestewa was awarded the Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal. In addition, Arizona’s state government renamed the racist-termed “Squaw Peak” near Phoenix as “Piestewa Peak.” Piestewa’s death in war transcended beyond herself and her family – her death made a lasting impact on our state. 

No political party has a monopoly on patriotism, and definitely not on war dead. The diversity of our armed forces is our nation’s strongest asset. Arizonans who have perished in service to our nation came from all walks of life and all backgrounds. 

At Pima Dems, we honor all who have departed this earth in service to their nation – often alone, far from home, and under great distress. We wish, pray, and hope for peace, and an end to all wars.