Native woman is missing in action in Iraq
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An emotional Percy Piestewa described daughter Lori Piestewa as "one tough cookie" on Monday as word surfaced that the 22-year-old Native woman from Arizona is missing in action in Iraq.

Army private first class Piestewa has been unaccounted for since Sunday, when her family was informed of her status. She belongs to the 507th Maintenance Company, from Fort Bliss in Texas, a unit whose members have been killed and captured by Iraqi forces and shown on Iraqi state-run television as prisoners of war.

Piestewa hasn't been among those displayed. But her mother held out hope that she is alive and with her fellow soldiers.

"It's a good thing for us," Percy Piestewa said in a telephone interview with KPNX Channel 12 News yesterday. "We're happy that she's not all alone."

Officials at Fort Bliss weren't able to comment on the reports when contacted early this morning.

A mother of a four-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, Piestewa shipped off to the Middle East in mid-February. She said it was difficult to leave her children behind.

"It's hard to leave them, but they are going to be with their grandmother," she told The El Paso Times. "I'm excited to go see something new. I'm also going to learn a lot."

Percy Piestewa said her daughter was "tough" and took top physical fitness honors as an ROTC student at Tuba City High School in Tuba City, Arizona. "I think mentally she knows that we're all pulling for her," the mother said. "She knows that we're all supporting her and that she'll pull out of it and come home, come home safe."

Brother Wayland Piestewa had similar words of hope. "She's a tough kid, and she keeps her head about her and her wits about her," he told the Associated Press. "The terrain is semiarid desert, so our hope is that she's out there staying put, staying alive and staying smart."

Piestewa, of Hopi and Mexican heritage, grew up in Tuba City, a town on the Navajo Reservation and next to the Hopi Reservation. She featured in a 1995 Scholastic Update article that highlighted her traditional and Catholic faiths. She participated actively in Hopi and Catholic ceremonies.

Piestewa's family held a vigil at a Tuba City church last night.

Related Stories:
Tuba City woman among missing U.S. troops (The Arizona Republic 3/25)
Tuba City soldier missing in action (The Arizona Daily Sun 3/25)
Missing, captured include soldiers from across U.S. (The El Paso Times 3/25)
TV Images Confirm Fears of Prisoners' Kin (The New York Times 3/25)
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