Piestewa family honors fallen soldiers

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PHOENIX -- Arizona native Lori Piestewa became the first female U.S. soldier to die in Iraq in 2003. She was also the first Native American woman in U.S. history to be killed in combat while serving in the U.S. military. Each year, the Piestewa family celebrates her life with other families of fallen soldiers.

According to icasualty.org, 98 Arizonans died in Iraq during the nine-year war.

During the first weeks of the invasion, Piestewa's unit was attacked. 

Piestewa, a member of the Hopi tribe in Tuba City, was killed, and several others, including Jessica Lynch and Shoshana Johnson, were taken as POWs.

Johnson and others from the unit travel to Phoenix each year for Piestewa's memorial.

The Piestewa family invites other Gold Star Families to the event, which is usually held at a facility near Piestewa Peak, which was renamed in Piestewa's honor.

This, the ninth annual ceremony, was the first since the U.S. mission in Iraq officially ended.

"It's an emotional up and down," say Piestewa's mother, Percy Piestewa. When asked what she thought the nine-year war and occupation accomplished, she answered, "How else are we going to fight oppression?"