WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Today marks, 20 years since Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa made the ultimate sacrifice when she was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, while we continue to heal from her loss, we are also here to celebrate the person she was and the love she felt and gave to her children Carla and Brandon, to her mother and father, to family and friends.
Lori was an exceptional warrior from Tuba City, where she grew up and called home. Lori’s late father, Terry Piestewa, was a Vietnam veteran and a member of the Hopi Nation. Her mother, Priscilla “Percy” Piestewa, a strong matriarch of the family. Both Terry and Percy raised four children, Lori being the youngest, who both ensured their children received their love, on the reservation. Percy lost her husband of 56 years, nearly six years ago
Lori personified the true meaning of what it is to be a warrior. She joined the U.S. Army on March 20, 2001, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After completing additional training after graduating from basic training, Lori was assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company in Fort Bliss, Texas. There she met Jessica Lynch and became close friends. In January 2003, the 507th were given notice they’d be deployed to Iraq. Two months later, on March 23, 2003, Lori and Jessica were on a convoy carrying supplies in Nasiriyah, Iraq. They ran into an ambush when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee they were in. Lori, Shoshana Johnson, and Jessica were injured in the attack. They were taken prisoner, where Lori would succumb to her injuries.
Navajo Hopi Honor Riders Co-founder Bobby Martin, a relative of Lori’s, has been a staunch supporter of veterans and has since been honoring other fallen Navajo warriors, was celebrating his 33rd birthday with his family when his wife started yelling for him to come inside the house. Bobby remembered seeing an image of his cousin on the tv screen. A day of celebration turned into a day of heavy grief.
Bobby thought of his aunt Percy and his uncle Terry, who were at their home in Tuba City when he learned of Lori’s death. So, he and a few of his close friends decided to ride to Tuba City. He thought of her the entire time on his ride. When he arrived, he remembered eating with them, laughing with them, and then crying with them. For the last 20 years or so, Bobby and the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders have ridden countless thousands of miles across our great Nation, honoring our sons and daughters – most for completing their tour of duty, and some who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Today, despite a cold chilly morning and despite a wet roads, the honor riders have made their trek across the reservation to Percy’s home in Flagstaff.
From my administration, on behalf of Vice President Richelle Montoya, and from Jasmine and I, we cannot thank Lori’s family enough for the ultimate sacrifice their daughter gave. We wish to express our humble gratitude and a heartfelt appreciation to be here with you, Bobby, the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders, and your family.
Here is a list of Navajo and Hopi servicemen and women who died or were killed in action from 2003 to the present:
- Spc. Lori A. Piestewa, U.S. Army, KIA 3/23/03, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Pfc. Harry N. Shondee, U.S. Army, KIA 8/3/04, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Sgt. Lee Duane Todacheene, U.S. Army, KIA 4/6/04, Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was the nephew of Frank Dayish Jr., then Navajo Nation vice president.
- Lance Cpl. Quinn A. Keith, U.S. Marines, KIA 9/6/04, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- LCPL Kevin B. Joyce, U.S. Marines, KIA 6/25/05, Operation Enduring Freedom
- Cpl. Lyle Cambridge, U.S. Army, KIA 7/5/05, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Sgt. Marshall A. Westbrook, U.S. Army, KIA 10/1/05, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Sgt. Clifton J. Yazzie, U.S. Army, KIA 1/20/06, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Sgt. Christopher N. Gonzalez, U.S. Army, KIA 5/14/07, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Sgt. 1st CLASS Kenneth W. Westbrook, U.S. Army, KIA 10/7/2009, Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Sgt. Troy O. Tom, U.S. Army, KIA 8/18/09, Operation Enduring Freedom
- Lance Cpt. Alejandro J. Yazzie, U.S. Marines, KIA 2/16/10, Operation Enduring Freedom
- Spc. Christopher J. Moon, U.S. Army, KIA 7/13/10, Operation Enduring Freedom
- Sgt. 1st James E. Thode, U.S. Army, KIA 12/2/10, Operation Enduring Freedom
- Staff Sgt. Jonathan D. Davis, U.S. Marines, KIA 2/22/13, Operation Enduring Freedom
- Cpl. Bernice K. Yazzie, Marine Corps, had re-enlisted and was home visiting family when she was killed on Nov 28, 2004, in an accident on U.S. Highway 491, near Tohatchi, New Mexico.
An additional statement is attached that was shared by Navajo Nation First Lady Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren today on behalf of President Nygren at the Piestewa Fallen Heroes Memorial service in Phoenix.