Two Friends - Two Years Later
Phoenix, Arizona – March 23rd, 2005
In a touching tribute to Pfc. Lori Piestewa, her sister soldier and best friend, Jessica Lynch, 21, stood at the base of Piestwea Peak with Lori’s family during a sunrise memorial service marking the second anniversary of the attack in southern Iraq that killed Piestewa and seriously wounded Lynch.
A single mother of two and member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was the first female Native American service member to be killed in combat. She was 23.
Piestewa and Lynch served together in the 507th Maintenance company based at Fort Bliss Texas. They roomed together at the base and later shared a tent in Iraq. They became best friends.
“We were so close that we felt we were like family.” Lynch said. “We were completely different but at the same time the difference is why we got along so well.
The wounded Lynch was held a prisoner of war until her dramatic rescue by a US combat team from an Iraqi hospital. She became an instant celebrity and the Iraq War “poster girl” for the Bush administration until it realized the young blonde from the hills of West Virginia had a mind of her own. She wrote her version about her ordeal with proceeds from the book creating a foundation to aid the Piestewa children.
At Wednesday’s service, Native American tribes, Piestewa’s parents and her two children, Brendan, six and Carla five, embraced Lynch as one of their own and the closest living link to their heroine.
Lynch sat composed and quiet with the family in a seat of honor. Piestewa’s mother, Terry, had her arm around Lynch’s shoulders. When Lynch rose to speak, using a cane for support, Piestewa’s father, Percy, gave her his hand.
Every day, Lynch said, she questions why she survived and Piestewa did not. She wishes she could tell friend she is studying to be a kindergarten teacher.
Lynch added she learned some lessons from Piestewa that saved her life: Be a stronger person and never give up. “I believe that with the help from her is why I am alive today.”
Mitake Oyasin – We are all related!
This story has been edited for content and length from a story bylined Emily Bittner, The Arizona Republic, Thursday, March 24th.
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