Private First Class
 Lori Piestewa


This speech was read on the Senate floor and will be therefore put into the Congressional Record. The first part was read by the Senator from South Dakota, Mr. Daschle. He then yielded his speaking time to the Senate Presiding Officer, who is the Senator from Utah, Mr. Hatch, who read the latter portion.

Congressional Record: April 7, 2003 Senate Page S4892


Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I want to take just a couple of minutes of my leader time to make a statement with regard to a very special young woman. Throughout America--especially in Native American communities-- Americans are grieving the loss in combat of Army PFC Lori Piestewa. But we are also feeling pride for Lori Piestewa's remarkable life.

PFC Piestewa was a member of the Army mechanics unit that was ambushed by Iraqi soldiers on March 23. Her body, and the remains of eight other soldiers, were recovered last week from a hospital in southern Iraq when Special Forces stormed the hospital to rescue another member of the 507th Maintenance Company, PFC Jessica Lynch.

Private Piestewa is the first Native American woman in the U.S. Armed Forces ever to die as a result of combat. She was 23 years old. She leaves behind two small children--a 4-year- old son and a 3-year-old daughter. . . . She also leaves behind a broken-hearted but proud family--and countless friends.

There are more than 12,000 Native Americans serving in our military today--including many from my State of South Dakota. They and Private Piestewa are part of a noble tradition that too few Americans know much about. It is a tradition that includes heroes like the  "Code Talkers'' of World War II--the service members from the Lakota, Navajo and other Indian nations who developed the only military code that was never broken by the Japanese. The Code Talkers were key to U.S. victories throughout the Pacific theater. Their service helped turn the tide of the war--and saved untold numbers of American lives.

Today, Private Piestewa takes her place alongside them as an American who risked everything to protect her land and her people. Over the weekend, memorials began to appear all over the reservation near Tuba City, AZ, where Private Piestewa grew up and where her family still lives. At one of the memorials, someone left a group of red, white, and blue balloons. Included in the bunch was one green balloon, the team color for Tuba City High School, where Lori Piestewa had been a softball star and a junior ROTC commander.

On May 24, Private Piestewa will be honored at another memorial. Red rose petals will be place in her honor in the reflecting pool of the Women in Military Service for American Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

When I heard about the memorials to Private Piestewa, I thought of another cemetery--at Wounded Knee, on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. I remember the first time I visited it. As I walked toward the cemetery, I was surprised to see little American flags dotting many of the graves. When I got close enough to read the headstones, I could see that many of the people there were veterans. Some--like Private Piestewa--had died in the service. Others had died years after they took off the uniform. But they wanted it recorded on their graves: This person loved this Nation. I have never seen a more profound expression of American patriotism.

The thoughts and prayers of our Nation are with the family and friends of PFC Lori Piestewa. She was an American hero. We are deeply grateful to her for her service and sacrifice--and to all Native Americans who are serving, and have served, our Nation in uniform.

I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah. Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I compliment the distinguished minority leader for this very sensitive and very important statement about this wonderful person. As someone who belongs to a family which has lost my older brother, and lost a brother-in-law--an older brother in the Second World War, and brother-in-law in Vietnam--and then have another brother-in-law who is suffering tremendously from his war wounds, who fought both in the Inchon Reservoir in Korea and also in Vietnam, I have to say these are the greatest of all Americans. I really appreciate his sensitivity in delivering this message for the Senate here today.