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Emily J Perez


Emily Perez was born on February 19th, 1983 in Heidelberg, Germany to a military family.  While in high school she helped begin an HIV-AIDS ministry.  She accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point where she was a four year letter earner on the track team, served as Cadet Command Sergeant Major, and graduated

academically in the top 10% of her class.  Emily was the first female minority Cadet Command Sergeant Major in the history of the United States Military Academy.

Emily deployed to Iraq with the 204th Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division in December 2005 as a Medical Service Corps officer. She was killed when an improvised explosive device exploded near her Humvee during combat operations in Al Kifl. She was the first West Point graduate of the class of 2005 to die in combat.  Her decorations include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal,

National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Combat Action Badge. She also posthumously received the NCAA Award of Valor in 2008 that recognizes a “courageous action or noteworthy bravery” by persons involved with intercollegiate athletics.

The soldiers in her former unit continue to honor her with a street named “Emily’s Way” and a medical center named the, “Emily J.T. Perez Treatment Facility” in Iraq.

We remember Emily Perez in her many bursts of motion: the diminutive young woman calling out orders to the freshman cadets on the castled military campus of West Point. We see her sprinting the third leg for Army’s 400-meter relay team. Or in the school’s gospel choir, filling her lungs and opening her mouth to sing.

“For me, yeah, like, it’s just an eye-opener,” agreed Meghan Venable-Thomas, 21, a senior who also ran track and sang in the choir with Perez, who graduated last year. “She was like a little superwoman . . . so full of energy and life, and she was just willing to do anything.”

Her nickname was Kobe, family friend E. Faith Bell said, because everyone knew she could make the shots, in whatever she did.

One of her mentors, Roger Pollard, who worked with her when she volunteered with the Alexandria Red Cross HIV-AIDS peer education program, recalled her remarkable ability to stay focused — always on time, always ready to work. She shared with other teenagers her stories about people close to her living with the depression and stigma of AIDS.

“She was the cream of the crop,” said Nathaniel Laney, Perez’s high school track coach and now assistant principal at Oxon Hill. “This wasn’t some average Joe.”


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