Fallen hero's family wants military personnel honored - East Valley Tribune: News

Fallen hero's family wants military personnel honored

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Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 10:53 pm | Updated: 2:06 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Family members of Army Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa hope a Phoenix landmark will be renamed for their fallen hero, but they want Arizonans to show similar respect for other military personnel who have fought and died in Iraq.

So they asked Gov. Janet Napolitano during a private meeting Wednesday if something more could be done besides changing the name of Squaw Peak.

"We do support the name change," brother Wayland Piestewa said at the state Capitol. "However, at this time, we are going to work with the governor so we honor all men and women who have served in the military."

The governor said she agreed with the suggestion and pledged to bring forward a proposal for a permanent monument or feature that honors the estimated 3,800 Arizona residents participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We are going to work with the families of all of them and with the Legislature over the next months to design an appropriate memorial," Napolitano said. "We need to stand up as Arizonans and commemorate those who have died in the line of duty."

The Piestewas made the trip Wednesday from Tuba City in northeast Arizona for a day of remembrance that included only a few references to the growing controversy about Napolitano's efforts to rename Squaw Peak and state Route 51, also called Squaw Peak Freeway.

The state Senate and House passed a joint resolution honoring Lori Piestewa, a 23-year-old Hopi mother of two who was killed after her Army maintenance unit was ambushed March 23 by Iraqi forces.

"Honoring Piestewa also honors those warriors of the past, the ones who protect the traditional way of the Native Americans of today," said state Rep. Jack Johnson, D-Window Rock, a Navajo who sponsored the resolution.

The Piestewas have sought to avoid the spotlight and grieve in private. But Lori Piestewa's story has gained international attention as the only servicewoman to be killed in the war and the first American Indian woman to die in combat during U.S. military action.

Her death inspired The Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to speed up its plans for an exhibit devoted to Indian women who have served in the military. The exhibit's first phase is set to open May 26 and will include one of Lori Piestewa's Army uniforms.

The Women's Memorial president, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, traveled to the Valley on Wednesday to meet the Piestewas and make a formal announcement about the creation of the exhibit.

"Let the generations know that Native American women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom and their resolve was just as great as the brave men who stood among them," Vaught said. "And I count Lori as one of those."

Phoenix-based TriWest Healthcare is providing $10,000 to make the exhibit possible, Vaught said, and the display will come to Arizona sometime this summer.

The debate over the name of Squaw Peak returns to the forefront today as the state Board on Geographic and Historic Names meets to consider Napolitano's petition to declare it as Piestewa Peak. The governor has been criticized for pushing the change so quickly after Piestewa's death, when state and federal policies call for a five-year waiting period.

Napolitano won't attend today's meeting to make her case in person, but said Wednesday she's not having second thoughts.

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