Md. Medical Corps Officer Killed by Explosive in Iraq

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2006

A 23-year-old Medical Service Corps officer from Fort Washington with a passion for books, fishing and music was killed in Iraq this month when an improvised explosive device detonated near her Humvee.

Second Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, a 2001 graduate of Oxon Hill High School, was killed Sept. 12 during combat operations in Al Kifl, Iraq, said Dalena Kanouse, an Army spokeswoman at Fort Hood, Tex., where Perez was based.

Perez, whose father and grandfather both served in the Army, graduated in 2005 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the top 10 percent of her class. She joined the military in May 2005 and was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. She was deployed to Iraq in December 2005.

"She was very ambitious and very passionate about anything she desired to do,'' said Faith Bell, her godmother. "She was a learner."

Perez was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and moved with her family to Fort Washington in 1998.

Bell said Perez was a bright child who was reading by the time she turned 3 and was an avid reader all her life. But it wasn't just academics that Perez enjoyed. When she would visit her parents, she often would go fishing, and on her last trip home, she caught a large croaker, Bell said. She ran track and sang in the gospel choir at West Point and even started a gospel choir during her time in Iraq, Bell said.

As a high school student, Perez pushed members of the District's Peace Baptist Church, where she was a member, to begin an HIV/AIDS ministry after several family friends became infected with the virus. She became an AIDS educator with the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross, and she was honored in 2001 by the American Red Cross Board of Governors for her work.

"She achieved all the goals in her life that she wanted to achieve,'' Bell said. "At 23 years of age she had done much more than a lot of us twice her age.''

Though Perez was a straight-A student who could have attended any of her choice of universities, she chose West Point, Bell said, because she relished both academic and physical challenges. Perez joined the Medical Service Corps because she wanted to help people, Bell said.

Bell said Perez was aware of the risks of going to Iraq.

"Her attitude was that she loved what she was doing,'' Bell said. "She knew it was possible [she would die], but she was always positive."

Perez's family declined to speak publicly, but her mother, Vicki Perez, released a statement about her daughter.

"In her eyes her greatest accomplishment was living every minute of her life serving, taking care of others and loving it," Vicki Perez said.

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