Lori Piestewa confirmed dead by U.S. military
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Lori Ann Piestewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, was killed in action after her military unit was ambushed March 23 in Iraq, the Defense Department said on Friday.

Piestewa, an Army private first class, was one of 15 soldiers whose unit was attacked by Iraqi soldiers near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. Of the 15, she is one of eight members of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, out of Fort Bliss in Texas, who are now confirmed dead. Another unit member, a roommate of Piestewa's, was rescued on Tuesday while the remaining are considered prisoners of war.

"Our family is proud of her. She is our hero," her brother Wayland told reporters today. "We are going to hold that in our hearts. She will not be forgotten. It gives us comfort to know that she is at peace right now."

"This tragedy has rocked the very foundation of the Hopi Reservation," said Hopi chairman Wayne Taylor in a statement. "We will get through this and we will continue to pray that all of our soldiers, not just Hopi, are safely returned home to their families."

Piestewa, who leaves behind a four-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, shipped out to the Middle East in mid-February. Her children are with her parents, who live in Tuba City, Arizona, a town on the Navajo Reservation and next to the Hopi Reservation.

Piestewa was first reported as missing in action, or "whereabouts unknown," because she was unaccounted for. Describing her as "one tough cookie," the Piestewa family held out hope that she would be found safely.

"She knows that we're all supporting her and that she'll pull out of it and come home, come home safe," her mother, Percy Piestewa, said in a television interview on March 24.

When Jessica Lynch, another 507th soldier and a roommate of Piestewa at Fort Bliss, was rescued earlier this week, the family continued to pray for her return.

But news accounts carried grim prospects. Lynch, 19, fought back as she was wounded and captured by Iraqi soldiers. She watched her fellow unit members die and eleven bodies were recovered from the hospital where she was found.

At the time of the attack, the Al-Jazeera television network, based in Qatar, had broadcast images of the American POWs and the dead soldiers. It is not known if any of the images were of Piestewa.

Piestewa was of Hopi and Mexican heritage. She was interviewed for a 1995 Scholastic Update article that highlighted her Native and Catholic faiths. She participated actively in Hopi and Catholic ceremonies.

She was an ROTC student at Tuba City High School and was the first female student to take top physical fitness honors, her mother said.

Department of Defense News Release:
Piestewa ambushed Mar. 23 (Dod 4/5)

More Stories:
Good Friends and Soldiers, Separate Fates (AP 4/6)
Wayland Piestewa: 'She is our hero' (AP 4/5)
Sister: Family wasn't notified (The Arizona Republic 4/5)
Hopi Chairman: Tragedy has 'rocked' tribe (The Arizona Republic 4/5)
Pentagon Identifies 8 Soldiers Killed in Ambush (The Washington Post 4/5)
Families Awaiting News on Soldiers Missing in Iraq Have Their Worst Fears Confirmed (The New York Times 4/5)
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Letters of Support Lori Piestewa and Family(4/4)
Piestewa: 'When is his mom coming home?' (4/4)
Rescued soldier has no information on Piestewa (4/4)
Military begins difficult identification process (4/4)
Rescued soldier watched unit members die (4/3)
Fellow Piestewa unit member rescued in Iraq (4/2)
Vigil held in Ariz. for missing Hopi soldier (3/27)
Hopi Tribe prays for return of missing soldier (3/26)
Piestewa Family Letter: Thank you for prayers (3/26)
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