PFC Lori Piestewa in uniform

Honoring PFC Lori Piestewa, 20 Years After the Start of Operation Iraqi Freedom

It’s been 20 years since we lost the first female military service member who signed up under combat operations when the military occupations were opened to women. Many of you recall that woman was U.S. Army Specialist (SPC) Lori Piestewa of Arizona. A member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was also the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military and the first woman in the U.S. military killed in the Iraq War. Arizona’s Piestewa Peak is named in her honor.

For two decades since her passing, the Gold Star Families, Arizonans for Piestewa, military and tribal leaders, veterans, the public, and the Hopi and Navajo tribes remember her through special tributes. This year’s honors will include a ceremony from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on March 22 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Community Center at 1973 E. Maryland Avenue in Phoenix. The dinner and program will include honors, keynote speakers, and gratitude for those serving or who have served our country.  Attendees are encouraged to wear military service uniforms, traditional dress, or business attire.

The following day, the 20th Anniversary Service for Lori Piestewa and Fallen Heroes event will occur from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Ocotillo Ramada at Piestewa Peak. Due to limited parking, please park at Lincoln Heights Christian Church, 2121 East Lincoln Drive, Phoenix, and take the shuttle to the Ocotillo Ramada. At the same ramada at 4:30 p.m., the Wear Blue Run to Remember national organization sponsors a Circle of Remembrance for our 177 women warriors that have died in combat since 9/11.  An optional hike will follow to the summit of Piestewa Peak) and food and refreshments will be available at the ramada.

“At these events, we honor the extreme sacrifice made to our country by the first American woman killed in combat and her ten comrades killed during that initial push. Later that day, eighteen marines were also killed in combat, including Michael Jason Williams from Phoenix,” said Ernest Martinez, Chairman of Arizonans for Piestewa. “Although the events and names may fade in our minds with time, our Gold Star Families never forget as they carry the sacrifice of their loved ones daily in their heart,” he added.

Since the Global War on Terror, 177 women serving in combat roles have died. America’s Gold Star Families is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization created to provide honor, hope, and healing to those grieving any military loss through active duty service.

All events are open to the public. For the March 22 dinner, you are asked to RSVP with Laureen Chischilly at  or 602-505-9006. You may register for the Wear Blue Run to Remember 7-day challenge at



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