Remembering Lori Piestewa on 20th Anniversary
April 7, 2023
Kyle Knox, GRIN
On Thursday, March 23, on the 20th anniversary of the passing of Lori Ann Piestewa (Hopi Tribe) The Piestewa Fallen Heroes Sunrise Service honored the occasion at Piestewa Peak in Phoenix. Lt. Governor Monica Antone attended as a special guest and provided remarks. The service recognizes Piestewa’s sacrifice to the country and honors Gold Star Families in attendance from around the state.
Per tradition, a posting of colors took place for the gathering, where Ira H. Hayes American Legion Post 84 led the procession. Gila River Royalty also attended the service alongside the American Legion Lori Piestewa American Legion Post 80 royalty.
“I’m so grateful to be here with you all here today and to celebrate this occasion and honor for Lori Piestewa,” said Lt. Gov. Antone. “Thank you, veterans, for the freedom you have given to our Indigenous people, for the United States of America, the freedoms we have today come from your service.”
Lt. Gov. Antone extended a warm welcome to all the veterans in attendance to the ancestral lands of the O’otham and Pee Posh peoples and said, “the desert will always be here as a place of healing, and you’re always welcome to our home.”
On March 23, 2003, Piestewa and the U.S. Army 507 Maintenance Company faced an ambush while in Nasiriyah, Iraq. During the attack, a rocket-propelled grenade struck Piestewa’s Humvee killing Piestewa, and ten other company members.
Piestewa was an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe and grew up in Tuba City, AZ, before enlisting.
Piestewa was the first Native American women soldier killed in action and the first woman killed during the Iraq War.
Shortly after her remarks, Lt. Gov. Antone gifted Jessica Lynch and Shoshana Johnson with shell necklaces.
Lori Piestewa’s mother, Priscilla “Percy” Piestewa, son Brandon Whiterock and daughter Carla Piestewa were present for the service. In addition, Piestewa’s company members with whom she served were also present, including Patrick Miller, Edgar Hernandez, Joseph Hudson, Jessica Lynch, and Shoshana Johnson.
“There was a time in my life where I dreaded this day so much,” Whiterock said. “But then it came to the point where it’s kind of reverse. And now I look forward to this day because it brings all my mom’s comrades together.”
“Yes, this is one of the worst days of our lives, but we’re here together and here as a family to heal together,” said Joseph Hudson. He knows the anniversary date is hard but looks forward to seeing and being around his “507 family.”
“If you’ve lost a child, you know that one day could be good, another bad but we have to remember that they were with us and we were given the opportunity to be with them, for however long we had them,” said Priscilla Piestewa, “Thank you, each and every one single one of you for being here today.”
A representative for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s office also read the Arizona House Concurrent Resolution 2047 that states, “the Members of the Legislature honor United States Army Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa and the Piestewa Fallen Heroes Memorial and encourage the citizens of Arizona to commemorate the tremendous bravery and patriotism of individuals such as she who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”