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Paying their respects

Paying their respects

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TUBA CITY — A few hours after her body was buried in the Hopi village of Moenkopi Saturday, the community of Tuba City gathered to remember Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa with music, laughter and tears.

More than 5,000 people, including Gov. Janet Napolitano and the leaders of many Arizona tribes, joined the Piestewa family in a moving four-hour ceremony at the Tuba City Warrior Pavilion celebrating the life of the 23-year-old Hopi soldier killed in action in Iraq.

Piestewa was remembered as a loving mother, sister and daughter as well as a "woman warrior and hero."

"Lori was many things to us. Arizona and all of America know she was a warrior and a brave patriot. Tuba City knew her as a fiery young woman born and raised here. The Hopi Tribe knew her as one of her own. And her family knew her as a loving sister, daughter and devoted mother. Lori Piestewa was all of these things and it's up to us to make sense of her loss and carry on the legacy she left behind," Napolitano said.

The governor said that after consulting with the Piestewa family, she would move on Monday to petition state officials to rename Squaw Peak and the Squaw Peak Parkway in memory of the young Hopi soldier who lost her life when her army convoy was ambushed March 23 outside of Nasiriyah.

Napolitano received two standing ovations when she made her announcement.

"Arizona and the nation came to know Lori Piestewa and two things happened," said Napolitano to the hushed crowd. "We swelled with pride and we felt our anguish grow. And when the news of Lori's death came, I shared with her mother, that mix of pride and great sorrow."

Piestewa's parents, Terry and Percy, and Lori's extended family were seated near a stage adorned with flowers, flags and photographs of the young solider. Napolitano presented the family with an Arizona flag that had been flown above the State House.

Seated in bleachers above the basketball court and in chairs on the gymnasium floor, the attentive and orderly crowd of Navajo, Hopis and non-natives took in more than three hours of speakers, dance performances, poetry readings and mournful bagpipe selections. Honor guards from the Tuba City ROTC, Flagstaff American Legion Post, Hopi High School ROTC, Fort McDowell and Fort Huachuca joined many others at Saturday's event.

Young children, babies and elderly Navajo grandmothers wearing brilliantly colored skirts and blouses were among the diverse crowd who came to the pavilion to celebrate Piestewa's life.

At the invocation given by Piestewa's aunt, Mary Chris Marlin, the thousands of people in attendance were asked to pray for the soldiers in Lori's unit who also were killed in action and their families and friends. She also spoke of Lori's deep, abiding faith in God.

"You are love, father, and Lori believed in your love and was dedicated to you. She counted on you and you came forth to provide a home and gave her a new address," Marlin said.

"Sweet father in heaven, let all of us understand that in this run for love, for unity of all mankind, Lori and her comrades took that baton and they ran with it for us. Now they are handing us that baton and asking us to do the same thing," Marlin prayed.

The event's master of ceremonies, Dennis Bowen, said the young woman was a respected member of the Navajo-Hopi community, a talented softball player and a person who wanted to travel and experience new things. She was also blessed with a "beautiful family," he said.

"The creator blessed her with wonderful parents, who are very spiritually at peace at this time," said Bowen.

The Piestewa family released a brief statement after their daughter's funeral at St. Jude's Catholic Church and burial Saturday morning.

"They are extremely grateful for the support the community has given and they appreciate everyone's respect for their privacy as they mourn the loss of Lori," read Tanja Linton, a media relations officer for the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca.

Tears flowed freely during the ceremony as family members, such as Manuel Baca Jr., read letters, poetry or prepared remarks about Lori's short life.

A HOPI PRAYEROn the simple program of the day's events given to all who attended, a simple "Hopi Prayer" was printed.

Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on the ripened grind. I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry: I am not there, I did not die.

— Arizona Daily Sun


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