Fort Hood News Archive

By Maj. Matthew Truax, Test Officer, Intelligence Electronic Warfare Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, New Mexico — Eighteen Soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, conducted night missions in a GPS degraded environment here using a new Army navigation tool called Mounted Assured Positioning and Timing System (MAPS).

The 3rd Cavalry Regiment Soldiers tested two variants of the MAPS systems on different variations of their Stryker vehicles to help determine the best system for the Army.

1st Lt. Nicholas Layden, a platoon leader with Outlaw Troop, 4th Squadron, appreciated the opportunity to take part in the test.

Operating in a GPS denied environment was new to him.

“The test exposed our Troopers to the future of electronic warfare (EW) and the knowledge gained will be taken back to the force in order to continue to push our Troopers to be more lethal in the 21st century,” he said.

During each of their missions, the 3CR Soldiers were required to navigate in a GPS-denied environment.

This enabled the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Test Directorate (IEWTD) to determine the capabilities and limitations of the MAPS as 3CR maneuvered through simulated future enemy EW effects.

MAPS is designed to support command and control by replacing the need for multiple GPS devices on a single platform, and it also helps to prevent jamming with an onboard anti-jam antenna.

The system aligns with the Army Futures Command (AFC)-directed requirement to prepare for tomorrow by providing overmatch in multi-domain operational environments.

After spending three weeks with the systems, most Soldiers were ready for the system to be fielded.

1st Lt. Sungkeun Kim of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Steel Squadron, 3CR, was especially impressed.

“These systems quickly instilled a new sense of confidence with an alternate and unique way to navigate,” he said. “I am excited to see the finished product in the field.”


About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:

As the Army’s only independent operational tester, enlists the “Total Army” (Active, National Guard, and Reserve) when testing Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.

About the Intelligence Electronic Warfare Test Directorate:

IEWTD executes independent operational testing of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); EW; biometrics (BM); and intelligence analysis systems to inform acquisition and fielding decisions for Army and select multiservice warfighting systems.  Additionally, IEWTD provides threat and ISR simulation and instrumentation support for internal and external test events.

Dr. Richard A. Kass of Orleans, Nebraska, will enter the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Operational Testers’ Hall of Fame as the program’s 42nd inductee in ceremonies scheduled for Oct. 2.

By U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

WEST FORT HOOD, Texas — Local news media are invited to the 27th Annual Operational Testers’ Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony hosted by the U.S. Army Operational Test Command here at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 2.

2020 Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. Richard A. Kass, is a native of Orleans, Nebraska, and will be honored for his 26-plus years in support of operational testing.

As OTC’s 42nd Hall of Fame inductee, Kass, started out as a young Marine Corps Infantry officer in 1973, and underwent U.S. Navy SCUBA Diving School and U.S. Army Ranger training as a young lieutenant.

Under his belt, he has a distinguished civil service career from 1980 to 2006, followed by his position at Geeks and Nerds (GaN) Corporation, continuing to support OTC at Fort Hood.

Dr. Kass retired from full-time employment in 2014.

Noteworthy is his dedicated service to his Nation spanning five decades.

Also to attend the ceremony are award recipients from 2017 — Michael B. Nott of Harker Heights, Texas, the 38th HOF inductee, and Gayle S. Shull of Belton, Texas, the program’s 39th inductee.

The Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class in October 1994, has served to honor Soldiers and Civilians for their commitment to putting the best possible equipment and systems into the hands of Soldiers in both training and combat conditions.

Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood gate (south side) at Clarke Road and Highway 190 Friday, Oct. 2 at 8:15 a.m., to be escorted to the event.

Media representatives — Click Here — to register for the event no later than 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1.


Carla Anthony, Office Manager for OTC’s Operations and Plans Office, receives from U.S. Army Operational Test Command Commander Col. David W. Gardner, a III Corps and Fort Hood Certificate of Appreciation in recognition as OTC’s 2020 Volunteer of the Year. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army Civilian employee here was honored in a small virtual ceremony as a Volunteer of the Year, selected by the Army Community Service’s Fort Hood Volunteer Corps.

Ms. Carla A. Anthony, an office manager at the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Operations and Plans office, received the award from OTC Commander Col. David W. Gardner.

Anthony spends an average of 18 volunteer hours each week organizing Family Readiness Group events for the unit.

“I volunteer because it brings me pleasure to see people happy,” she said. “If I can take a burden off of somebody else, even for a short while, it makes me happy.”

Gardner said during a year masked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony’s volunteer efforts are more significant than usual.

“There’s so many accomplishments in this past year,” Gardner told Anthony. “And frankly, it’s not just this past year — you’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve had a huge impact every year since you’ve been at OTC, and certainly for about the last seven years.”

Gardner said Anthony’s efforts take care of all OTC members and listed events supporting the Family Readiness Group, to include ceramic classes, gardening tips by a master gardener, swimming, and providing food and drinks for spring and winter festivals.

“Who is working diligently to take care of the 750-or-so service members of OTC?” Gardner asked.

“Double that number when we’re talking about family; when we invite kids as well as spouses; now we’re talking about well over 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 family members and workforce that is all done through the goodness of your heart, and your willingness to volunteer, and we can’t thank you enough,” said Gardner.

The first volunteer experience Anthony remembers in life is picking up litter along a roadside her high school adopted.

“It was something fun to do, and after you did it, you looked at your work, and you were like, ‘Wow! We did that!’” she said.

“And when you came back to do it again, it was a matter of pride, because you’re helping out your community by beautifying it.”

To prepare for OTC’s 2019 50th Anniversary Holiday Ball, she organized producing an OTC 50th Anniversary Cookbook with unit member recipes, and while assembling a team of other volunteers, helped raise thousands of dollars during the year, which went back into unit functions.

Gardner lauded Anthony, saying, “She is working very diligently to ensure that if we are able to do it, we have a 2021 OTC holiday ball.”

A Navy Veteran, Anthony was a linguist who once could speak Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish fluently with a little German, but said she is most proficient in Spanish since leaving the service in 2003.

She said her best ever volunteer experience was with an orphanage while assigned to South Korea.

“We took the orphans around and showed them the Buddhist temples, and the history of Korea,” she said.

“For me, that was a profound experience because these kids … they didn’t ask for this life. It wasn’t their choice. And to take them out to show them their culture, and to show them that they are loved and that they are wanted was a beautiful experience.”

Anthony’s volunteerism rubs off, as her family can be seen at all OTC morale-boosting events.

From her husband Brian who plays Santa, and 16-year-old Kristina, who donates her allowances to little jars at convenience stores and buys gifts for the homeless, to even her youngest, Jasmyne, 14, who volunteers time working with animals, the Anthony family knows the significance of volunteering.

“At any event here at OTC, the kids are full-fledged,” said Anthony. “They know they’ll be playing an elf, or a bunny assistant, or they’ll be helping with cleanup, and setup. They know that when we come to these events that we’re giving back.”

During her almost 11 years at OTC, Anthony possesses a volunteer award certificate of some sort for each year.

Once, she made over 2,000 burritos for unit fundraisers, using her own funds and time.

People in the unit also look forward to the variety of cakes she bakes and decorates to sell to support the unit fund.

“I feel as a society, in order to better it, you have to provide the best that you can by putting your best foot forward, to help people, and I believe that’s why we are all here,” she said.

Hanging on her office wall, Anthony even has a certificate signed President George W. Bush for amassing over 4,000 volunteer hours.

Deep down, Anthony stumbles a bit trying to describe the emotions she has from volunteering.

“For OTC, volunteering period is — I feel I was put on Earth — I am here for a reason,” she said. “It is a passion of mine to help people. If I could help more, I would, but I can’t. There’s not enough of me sometimes.

“I want to see joy and tell people that I am here to help. If I can give you my last dime, I would.”

Anthony accepted her award and after thanking everyone who helped in her efforts, she left everyone with her favorite quote.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” she said, quoting Mahatma Ghandi.

“I have found that I found my true self by volunteering.”

FORT HOOD, Texas—III Corps hosts a colors uncasing ceremony and change of command for the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade here at Cameron Field, October 1 at 9:00 a.m.

The ceremony signifies the 3rd SFAB’s return from their first deployment to the CENTCOM AOR as Brig. Gen. Charles Masaracchia relinquishes command to Col. Michael Trotter.

From November 2019 to August 2020, the 3rd SFAB supported missions in two theaters of operation simultaneously; in Afghanistan, NATO’s Resolute Support Mission with U.S. Forces Afghanistan’s Freedom’s Sentinel, and in Iraq, Operation Inherent Resolve. In both theaters our mission was to Advise, Support, Liaise, and Assess (ASLA) our partnered Foreign Security Forces (FSF) to enable them to defend their homeland and protect its citizens.

The 3rd SFAB is comprised of approximately 820 professional combat advisors who are selected, trained and equipped to support combatant commanders by integrating with foreign security forces.  The 3rd SFAB supports and enables local security partners to enhance their capabilities and capacity to achieve regional security in support of U.S. national interests.

The ceremony can be viewed virtually on the 3rd SFAB Facebook page at

Media who wish to cover this event, contact Maj. Jefferson Grimes at 979-575-9078 or  On October 1, media should meet public affairs representatives at the Marvin Leath Visitors Center at 8:20 a.m.

FORT HOOD, Texas — This week began a new legacy for the 1st Cavalry Division, as Operation Pegasus Strength kicked off with Troopers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, “Black Knights”. Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater, commander of the 1st Cav. Div., announced the initiation of Operation Pegasus Strength 14 Sept. during the Division’s 99th birthday celebration on Cooper Field.

Operation Pegasus Strength is an operation aimed at eradicating corrosives from our Army while simultaneously building cohesive teams. Suicide, sexual assault, sexual harassment and extremism have no place within the Army.

“What this is about is building truly cohesive teams and giving the time and resources needed to really get to know each other,” said Broadwater. “We’ve been busy. We’ve been all over the world. Some are just getting back from Europe, some are just getting here, and we’re trying to form these cohesive teams each and every day. We really, really need to focus on our formations.”

Each week a different battalion will participate in the round-robin style Operation Pegasus Strength, while also ensuring continued leader engagement throughout the year.

During Operation Pegasus Strength, the days start with physical readiness training competitions followed by a brief given by 1st Cav. Div. leadership, and then moves into small group training activities.

“This week is about us,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kenny, the senior enlisted leader for the 1st Cav. Div., during his brief to the Troopers of 1-5 CAV. “Take the time to think about each other and make each other better. Take some time to reflect. Ask the questions, get to know each other a little better and find out what motivates you and your families. That’s the power of the First Team.”

Throughout Operation Pegasus Strength, Troopers are assigned to 10-person squads and engage in  Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training, Inclusivity training, Value of Life training and a psychological exercise with certified behavioral health specialists.

The SHARP 360 Training Center is one stop required during Operation Pegasus Strength. It is an interactive training facility which is used for engagement training and is hands-on, scenario based. It provides different potential situations in which Troopers may find themselves such a bar, the field, a barracks room or the gym, and provides vignettes for Troopers to work through together.

“I enjoyed the training because it was hands-on and away from power points,” said Sgt. Alfonso Santiago, squad leader, A Co., 1-5 CAV. “This training is important, especially at the squad size level, it allows us to identify any issues that may come within our squad and helps us know how to ask the right questions.”

Inclusivity training encompasses scenario-based, equal opportunity vignettes in which Troopers are provided mentorship concerning inclusivity amongst their teams, and given tools and resources that can be used to further their understanding of the Equal Opportunity program in which the 1st Cav. Div. and the Army fosters.

During the Psychological exercise portion, Troopers sit down with their squad and a behavioral health specialist and have group discussions regarding stressors and how to identify and react to them. Knowing and understanding stressors helps build mentally strong and resilient Troopers.

“The psychological exercise class kind of taught us a lot about understanding your Soldiers and asking the right questions, and knowing the difference between punishment and reward,” said Spc. Jonathan Comerford, a Bradley gunner assigned to 1-5 CAV. “It’s about knowing what works best for your soldiers. This training is important because its builds that unit cohesion and gets everyone motivated together.”

The Unit Ministry Teams host the Value of Life small group training portion of Operation Pegasus Strength, which focuses on the spiritual well-being of the Troopers and. The purpose of this portion concerns resiliency in order to grow and strengthen the bonds between Troopers and their Families.

“We have to take the time to put this on the schedule, to deliberately train with Troopers, leaders and Families in order to build inclusive and cohesive teams,” said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of 1-5 CAV. “We are a team. We all have a purpose here, not only in the 1st Cav. Div., but within the Army. We are a family and we take care of each other, and it’s okay to communicate when we’re having stressors in our lives. We want our Soldiers to trust us with stressors and issues so that we can resolve those issues and continue to build this great team of ours.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Allen, senior enlisted leader for 1-5 CAV, has created his own internal initiative, titled “Own the Knights”, in which Troopers from the battalion will break into small groups monthly and continue the conversations and discussions had during Operation Pegasus Strength, in order to continue the momentum in building inclusive and cohesive teams.

Operation Pegasus Strength allows leaders to take a break from the rigorous training cycles and sets aside deliberate time to engage with and get to know the Troopers in their formations. The end of the week culminates with a team event such as a barbeque or sports day type of competition.

“I trust each and every one of you,” said Broadwater. “I hope that if your junior leader doesn’t get after a problem for you that you take that to your platoon sergeant, or your platoon leader, or the company commander and the first sergeant. I guarantee you that they will get after it because the only way that we can build a team that dominates is for us to trust each other and understand one another. That’s what it’s all about, building cohesive teams and really getting to know one another.”

Operation Pegasus Strength Two is already on the training calendar for next year.

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater shares his intent and expectations for Operation Pegasus Strength with Troopers assigned to 1-5 CAV, “Black Knights”. Operation Pegasus Strength is an operation aimed at eradicating corrosives from our Army while simultaneously building cohesive teams. Suicide, sexual assault, sexual harassment and extremism have no place within the Army. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Kelsey Miller, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs Office)
The SHARP 360 Training Center is a required stop during Operation Pegasus Strength and is a scenario based, interactive training facility which provides different potential situations in which Troopers may find themselves. Operation Pegasus Strength is an operation aimed at eradicating corrosives from our Army while simultaneously building cohesive teams. Suicide, sexual assault, sexual harassment and extremism have no place within the Army.(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Kelsey Miller, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs Office)

Fort Hood, Texas — The Department of the Army announced today that the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division known as Ironhorse, will participate in the fall 2020 rotation of Atlantic Resolve in Europe.

 The Ironhorse Brigade will replace the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in support of the United States’ commitment to NATO allies and partners.

 “The Ironhorse Brigade is honored to deploy in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve as a Regionally Allocated Force in Europe,” said Col. Michael D. Schoenfeldt, commander of the 1st ABCT. “It is a great privilege to aid in the preservation of peace by showcasing our Army’s ability to project lethality across the globe. The Ironhorse Brigade is lethal, tough, and ready. We do not take lightly our responsibility to instill confidence in the American People and our allies; nor the opportunity to instill fear in our adversaries.”

 The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will deploy with approximately 3,700 Soldiers, 80 tanks, 130 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and 18 Paladins (440 tracked vehicles; 830 wheeled vehicles/equipment 600 trailers; 1,880 total rolling stock).

 “This brigade is well-trained and ready for any mission that our nation requires.   They have safely overcome the challenges to prepare during this COVID environment, built their capability, and are ready to support our allies and partners in Europe,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater, Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division.   “They are a truly cohesive team.  I know they will represent the Division and Central Texas well during this mission.” 

 The deployment of ready, combat-credible U.S. forces to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve is evidence of the strong and unremitting U.S. commitment to NATO and Europe. Through bilateral, joint and multinational training, Atlantic Resolve builds readiness, increases interoperability and enhances the bond between ally and partner militaries.

 For more information, contact the 1st Cavalry Division public affairs officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Brautigam, at or 254-287-9398.

FORT HOOD, Texas – Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center recently welcomed a new member to the team as Command Sgt. Major Elvin Medina assumed duties as CRDAMC’s senior enlisted advisor in a virtual ceremony here September 18.

As senior enlisted advisor, Medina will serve as the focal point for communications between CRDAMC leadership, the Soldiers and civilian staff and the many thousands of beneficiaries who come to the hospital for their medical needs.

Medina, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, enlisted in the Army in June 1994 as a preventive medicine specialist in the Army Medical Corps. Throughout his 26-year career he has served in a variety of medical positions across the country and Europe and has deployed to various theaters of operations.  His previous assignment was as the command sergeant major for Public Health Command – Atlantic. Fort Meade, Maryland.

In his opening remarks, Medina explained that this was his first time at Fort Hood and the first thing he saw driving through the gate was the new hospital towering over the post. To him, Medina said, that represented the huge role CRDAMC plays in ensuring the medical readiness of the Army’s most important asset—its troops.

In his first words to the Soldiers of CRDAMC he told them, “Make no mistake, to save lives on the battlefield, we have to get there first. We must remember that our profession is the Profession of Arms. To that end, good order and discipline, Soldier and leader development and physical fitness combined with leader engagement are paramount to me and to all. Good units know that, better units exercise that.

“We will exercise that every day. And we’ll do it in a way that’s not toxic or destructive, but balanced and directed.”




Command Sgt. Major Elvin Medina accepts the guidon from CRDAMC Commander, Col. Richard Malish signifying his assumption of responsibilities as the new senior enlisted advisor in a virtual ceremony here September 18. (U.S. Army Photo by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs)


The GREYWOLF Brigade, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, announces that they will host a Vietnam War Veteran Recognition Ceremony on 25 September 2020.

2nd Battalion, 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, will formally recognize Veterans that served in their Bravo Company during the Vietnam War.  Photos of these distinguished troopers will be unveiled and placed in Bravo Company Common Areas. Around 24 Vietnam veterans and their families will be in attendance for the event.

The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. on Ghost Field.

Media desiring to cover the first fire event must RSVP to Maj. Heba Bullock at no later than 3 .p.m on Sep. 24.

Media attending will conduct a COVID screening prior to entry on Fort Hood and must provide their own masks.

A public affairs representative will meet the media at the south parking lot of Marvin Leath Visitors Center located on T. J. Mills Blvd. at 12:20 p.m. for an escort to the event.

Pvt. Mejhor Morta

FORT HOOD, Texas – Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences finalized its autopsy of Pvt. Mejhor Morta confirming earlier reports that his death was by drowning and no foul play was involved.

“Our deepest sympathies are with his teammates and family during this difficult time,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater, commander, 1st Cavalry Division. “Although the results do not bring Pvt. Morta back, I hope it brings a measure of peace to the family after such a tragic and unimaginable loss.”

The most current statistics show that drowning is the 5th leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.

The unit remains committed to keeping Pvt. Morta’s Family informed and will continue to provide support to the family in any way needed. Pvt. Morta was and will always be part of our long-lived legacy and we will continue to honor his memory.

“Mejhor brought honor, dignity and respect to our Nation,” said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “He was a patriot who volunteered to serve our great country and we will always be grateful for his steadfast dedication to family, friends and fellow Soldiers. He was truly remarkable and this loss hurts all of us”.

Pvt. Morta entered the Army in September 2019, as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle Mechanic, and had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment since May 2020.

The investigation by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department has officially been closed.


La muerte del Soldado Morta es confirmada por autopsia como ahogo accidental

FORT HOOD, Texas – El Instituto Southwest de Ciencias Forense finalizo la autopsia del Soldado Mejhor Morta, confirmando informes anteriores de que su muerte fue por ahogamiento y no hubo juego sucio.

“Nuestro más sentido pésame con sus compañeros de equipo y su familia durante este momento difícil,” digo el mayor general Jeffery Broadwater, comandante de la 1ra Division de Caballería. “Aunque los resultados no les devuelve a el Soldado Morta, espero que les traiga un poco de paz a la familia después de una perdida tan trágica e inimaginable.”

Las estadísticas más recientes muestran que el ahogamiento es la quinta causa principal de muerte accidental en los Estados Unidos.

La unidad sigue comprometida con mantener a la Familia Morta informada y continuara brindándoles apoyo de cualquier manera que se necesaria. El Soldado Morta fue y siempre será parte de nuestro legado y continuaremos honrando su memoria.

“Mejhor trajo honor, dignidad y respeto a nuestra nación,” digo el teniente coronel Neil Armstrong, comandante, 1er Batallón, 5˚ Regimiento de Caballería, 2˚ Equipo de Combate de la Brigada Blindada, 1ra Division de Caballería. “Fue un patriota que se ofreció como voluntario para servir a nuestro gran país y siempre estaremos agradecidos por su firme dedicación a su familia, amigos, y compañeros. Fue realmente notable y esta pérdida nos duele a todos.”

El Soldado Morta ingreso al Ejército en Septiembre del 2019, como mecánico de vehículos de combate Bradley, y había sido asignado al 1er Batallón, 5˚ Regimiento de Caballería desde Mayo del 2020.

La investigación del Departamento del Sheriff del condado de Bell ha sido oficialmente cerrada.

By Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs

HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas – Daughter, sister, friend, leader, encourager, competitor, singer and giver of hugs. Those are all descriptions of 2nd Lt. Emily Perez, but above all those descriptions, her greatest joy was the love and faith she had in God … and country.

Emily was the first African American cadet Brigade Command Sgt. Major of West Point. A feisty, 5-foot, 3-inch cadet, nicknamed Taz because her fellow cadets said she was like the Tasmanian Devil, she was both feared and revered for her leadership, conviction and heart. Although tough as nails in formation, she would spend her free time tutoring the cadets and writing letters of encouragement for those who felt like quitting West Point.

“In her diary, she wrote that people have taken care of her all her life and now she had the opportunity to take care of other people,” Vicki Perez said of her daughter. “Her biggest concern was taking care of her Soldiers.”

Emily’s perpetuity to help others led her to become a Medical Service Corps officer. The same heart that reassured Soldiers when they felt like giving up at West Point, was also the same heart who volunteered to go out on convoy Sept. 12, 2006, taking the place of an inexperienced leader while deployed with the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division in Iraq.

On that fateful day 14 years ago, Emily paid the ultimate sacrifice when an improvised explosive device exploded under her Humvee. It was a day Daniel, father, and Vicki will never forget – the day they became a Gold Star Family, an “honor” no parent wants – but many have to face.

Over the next few weeks, her family would learn that Emily was the first African American female officer to die in combat in Iraq, she was the first female graduate of West Point to die in the Iraq War and she was the first West Point graduate of the “Class of 9/11” to die in combat.

“My first question to the casualty assistance officer was ‘Was it instant?’ because the thought of her being hurt,” Vicki said, holding back tears. “I know the first thing she would think is, she would want me (to comfort her).”

It was only after Vicki heard an interview in 2019 with former Spc. Travis Truesdell, Emily’s former door gunner, that her question was finally answered. Hearing Truesdell’s account of Emily’s final moments – that her death was instant and she didn’t suffer – was something Vicki’s heart needed to hear after 13 years of not knowing.

“It was a terrible thing to happen, but to think your child was suffering for any amount of time is heart wrenching,” Vicki explained. “To hear that (she didn’t suffer) helped me a lot, even after all these years.”

Daniel and Vicki remember their daughter as an affectionate child who always inspired the best in everyone. She was a track star, member of the 1st European Chapter of the Jack and Jill program, Girl Scouts and a volunteer with the Red Cross. She was one of the youngest members ever to be accepted into Model United Nations and advocated to find a cure for HIV and AIDS. Although her words inspired the toughest of Soldiers, even as a teenager, Emily was a powerful speaker who inspired hope.

“You never went in Emily’s presence and left the same way,” Daniel said. “Her whole thing was making you better than what you were and making you want to do your best.”

Although Emily originally did not plan on joining the military or attending West Point, Vicki said after attending a summer program at the school, Emily made it her mission to be accepted. She enjoyed the competitiveness and camaraderie of the school and although she began her application later than other students, she was determined.

“After Emily was killed, I was very upset with God,” Vicki admitted. “We fought a lot – well, I fought him – he just listened.”

Vicki said she fought with God until he told her that although Emily is no longer physically on Earth, her spirit would continue to live on and she would continue to inspire people. True to his word, Emily’s story lives on throughout the world.

Following her death, the 4th Inf. Div. dedicated the Emily Perez Treatment Facility at Forward Operating Base Kalsu and named a street, Emily’s Way, in her memory. In Harriman, New York, a town near West Point, the American Legion Mulligan-Eden Post 1573 dedicated River Road as 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez Memorial Way in 2011. Not long after, Daniel and Vicki were contacted by the Smithsonian Institution about having a permanent display honoring Emily.

Emily’s compelling story and personal military memorabilia is now on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., her spirit living on and continuing to inspire millions of visitors annually.

There are also several plaques and memorials throughout the world in honor of Emily, who would have never wanted so much fuss about her. Vicki said her wise, but humble daughter had faith far beyond her years, living by one simple rule that has continued to inspire Vicki: If you do your best, God will do the rest.

More than 14 years have passed since Emily “gained her wings,” but she continues to live on in the lives of her family, friends and Soldiers whose lives she touched in her brief, but inspirational life.

Sept. 27 is Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day, observed the last Sunday in September to honor and recognize those parents – like Daniel and Vicki – who have lost a child while serving in the military.