Lori Piestewa's journey from Tuba City to Iraq
Born in December 1980 to a Hopi father, Terry Piestewa, and a Hispanic mother, Priscilla "Percy" Baca Piestewa, Lori Ann was the youngest of four children, two boys and two girls. She spent part of her childhood in Winslow but grew up mostly in Tuba City. Though taught from an early age about her Hopi background - the family name literally means "pool of still water" - she was raised on the Navajo side of U.S. 160 in the town, which marks the boundary between the Navajo and Hopi reservations.
Some remembered her as a "daddy's girl," playing Little League baseball with her team, the Indians, when she was 7 or 8. By eighth grade, she was making an impression as a determined volleyball player despite being shorter than 5 feet.
She was good enough to stand out, recalled teammate Vachel Kewenvoyouma, 25, of Prescott. Everyone called her "Little Lori," and she never missed practice.
"She never gave up, always tried harder," Kewenvoyouma said. "No matter how down we were in scores, she tried harder."
At Tuba City High School, Piestewa was pitcher and second baseman on the softball team where her steely determination again was on display.
She loved her two kids, cooking chicken enchiladas, playing softball and listening to the Cranberries. She was a church-going Catholic, but she honored her Hopi heritage by attending religious dances at nearby Moenkopi Village.
On March 30, 2001, Piestewa reported for basic training at Fort Sill, just as Whiterock had. She then went to Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Va., before accepting her first duty assignment with the 507th Maintenance Company, a unit assigned to the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The unit, whose motto is "Just Fix It," is packed with mechanics and technicians trained to repair trucks and heavy equipment, including the unit's missile systems. Piestewa's job: keeping track via computer of supplies used by the 150-person detail.
It was at Fort Bliss that she met Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who would become her fast friend and roommate in roughly February 2002, said Lynch's brother, Gregory Lynch of Palestine, W.V.
"Jessie talked about her all the time," Gregory said, adding that they would go to malls and movies together in their spare time.
Piestewa gave a local TV interview before shipping out, saying prophetically, "It's very important knowing that my family is well taken care of."