Lori Piestewa

Lori Ann Piestewa (/pˈɛstəwɑː/ py-ES-tə-wah;[3] December 14, 1979 – March 23, 2003) was a United States Army soldier killed during the Iraq War. A member of the Quartermaster Corps, she died in the same Iraqi attack in which fellow soldiers Shoshana Johnson and Piestewa's friend Jessica Lynch were injured. A member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was 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.[2] Arizona's Piestewa Peak is named in her honor.

Lori Piestewa
Lori Piestewa.jpg
Piestewa a few weeks before her death in 2003
Native name
Born(1979-12-14)December 14, 1979
Tuba City, Arizona, U.S.
DiedMarch 23, 2003(2003-03-23) (aged 23)
Nasiriyah, Iraq
Tuba City Community Cemetery, Tuba City, Arizona, U.S.[1]
Allegiance Hopi Nation
 United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service2001–2003
RankArmy-USA-OR-04b-2014.svg Specialist (posthumous)[2]
Unit507th Maintenance Company
Battles/warsIraq War
AwardsPurple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Prisoner of War ribbon.svg Prisoner of War Medal

Early life and educationEdit

Piestewa was born in Tuba City, Arizona, to Terry Piestewa and Priscilla "Percy" Baca.[4][5][6] Her father is Hopi Native American and her mother is Mexican-American.[7] The couple first met in 1964 and married in November 1968.[8]

The Piestewa family had a long military tradition; her paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of World War II,[9] and her father Terry Piestewa was drafted in the U.S. Army in September 1965 and served a tour of duty in the Vietnam War before he returned home in March 1967.[8]

The Piestewa family resided in Tuba City, a town located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Coconino County.[9] As a child, she was given the Hopi name Qötsa-Hon-Mana (Hopi pronunciation: [ˈḵøt͡sa ˈhon ˈmana], White Bear Girl).[7] Her surname is derived from a Hopi language root meaning "water pooled on the desert by a hard rain"; thus, Piestewa (Hopi: [piˈɛstɛwa]) translates loosely as "the people who live by the water."

Ambush in Nasiriyah, IraqEdit

Piestewa was a member of the US Army's 507th Maintenance Company, a support unit of maintenance and repair personnel. Her company was traveling in a convoy through the desert and was meant to bypass Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq, during the opening days of the war; but the convoy got lost and ran into an ambush in Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003.

As Piestewa came under "a torrent of fire" (in the words of an Army investigation of the battle) she drove at high speed, evading enemy fire until a rocket-propelled grenade hit her Humvee.[10] The explosion sent her vehicle into the rear of a disabled tractor-trailer.[10] Piestewa, Johnson, and Lynch all survived the crash with injuries, while three other soldiers in the Humvee died. They were taken prisoner along with four others, with Piestewa dying of her wounds soon after. A video of some of the American prisoners of war, including Piestewa (filmed shortly before she died in an Iraqi hospital), was later shown around the world on Al Jazeera television.[11] According to Jessica Lynch's book—I'm a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story—Piestewa was wounded in the head, and performing delicate neurosurgery in an Iraqi civilian hospital was impossible in wartime conditions (due to limitations such as intermittent electric power).

The families of soldiers in the 507th heard almost right away of the ambush and fatalities in the unit. The Piestewa family saw people in her unit being interviewed by Iraqi TV, and for more than a week, families of the two women waited for news. All around Tuba City, signs were hung out telling people: "Put your porch light on, show Lori the way home." They used white stone to spell her name on a 200-foot-high mesa just outside the town.[9]


Piestewa was awarded the Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal. The U.S. Army posthumously promoted her from private first class to specialist.

Lynch has repeatedly stated that Piestewa was the true heroine of the ambush and named her daughter Dakota Ann in honor of her fallen comrade. In addition, many entities have honored her memory with memorials. Arizona's state government renamed Squaw Peak in the Phoenix Mountains near Phoenix as Piestewa Peak, and this was codified by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on April 10, 2008;[2] the freeway that passes near this mountain was also renamed in her honor. In addition, Senator Tom Daschle honored her, as did Indian Nations across the United States. Since her death, the Grand Canyon State Games organizers have held an annual Lori Piestewa National Native American Games, which brings participants from across the country. A plaque bearing her name is also located at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and Fort Bliss, Texas. She has also been memorialized with a plaque and ceremony at Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in La Jolla, California.[12] On November 10, 2011, American Legion Post No. 80 on the Hopi Reservation was renamed the Lori Piestewa Post # 80.[13] On November 30, 2011, the Directorate of Training Sustainment headquarters at Fort Benning, Georgia was named Piestewa Hall in her honor.[14]

Her death led to a rare joint prayer gathering between members of the Hopi and Navajo tribes, which have had a centuries-old rivalry.[15]

In May 2005, Piestewa's parents and children had a brand-new home built by Ty Pennington and his crew on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition accompanied by Jessica Lynch. They also built a new veterans' center on the Navajo reservation.

In 2018, Piestewa became one of the inductees in the first induction ceremony held by the National Native American Hall of Fame.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lori Piestewa at Find a Grave
  2. ^ a b c Williams, Rudi (May 27, 2003). "Army Spc. Lori Piestewa". American Forces Press Service. Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2007.
  3. ^ Pancrazio, Angela Cara (May 26, 2003). "Piestewa is latest hard-to-pronounce name for Arizona". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  4. ^ "American Indian Heritage Month". Pentagon.gov. May 27, 2003. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
  5. ^ "Special Report | Lori Piestewa". Azcentral.com. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
  6. ^ Museum with meaning: Reflections on NMAI : ICT [2004/09/28] Archived February 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Davidson, Osha Gray (May 27, 2004). "A Wrong Turn in the Desert". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Witness Testimony – House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Archived November 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c Younge, Gary (April 10, 2003). "What about Private Lori?". The Guardian. Retrieved July 31, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Attack on the 507th Maintenance Company Archived April 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Lucas, Dean (2007). "Famous Pictures Magazine – Jessica Lynch". Famous Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
  12. ^ Mount Soledad Memorial Association website[dead link]
  13. ^ Thayer, Rosanda Suetopka (November 30, 2011). "Honoring One Of Their Own". Navajo Hopi Observer.
  14. ^ Wright, Ben (December 1, 2011). "Fort Benning Names Building After Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
  15. ^ Younge, Gary (April 10, 2003). "What about Private Lori?". The Guardian. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  16. ^ "National Native American Hall of Fame names first twelve historic inductees – IndianCountryToday.com". Newsmaven.io. Retrieved 2018-10-22.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit