By Yamiche Alcindor
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Lt. Col. Juanita Warman had been at Fort Hood only 24 hours, preparing for deployment to Iraq, when she and 12 others were gunned down there this month. She was the highest-ranking soldier killed in the Texas attack.
"I kept thinking, 'She can't be in the processing center.' She had just gotten there, she had more training to undergo. She was not due to leave until the end of November," her husband, Philip Warman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I knew she was going in harm's way in Iraq. [But at Fort Hood] this is not the way she was going to go."
Friends and family gathered Monday in the cold rain at Arlington National Cemetery to say goodbye to the beloved wife, mother, and soldier. The ceremony began with the deep drums of the U.S. Army Band. Dark horses pulled the caisson that carried Warman's oak-colored casket to her grave site. The frigid wind blew leaves from the nearly bare branches of the large trees surrounding Warman's final resting place.
"She was indeed an extraordinary woman," Philip Warman told the Post-Gazette. "I can't remember when we weren't together. We met at a social event at the University Club in 1986. We've been together since. She was my best friend. She was an excellent soldier."
Warman, 55, worked her way through the University of Pittsburgh, became a nurse and joined the military, where she worked as a physician assistant, said her sister, Margaret Yaggie of Roaring Branch, Pa. She had also spent time in Washington state and Maryland.
Brig. Gen. James Adkins, adjutant general for Maryland, told the Austin American-Statesman that Warman was instrumental in setting up the post-traumatic stress disorder program for the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which helps soldiers and their families reacclimate to civilian life.
"She was especially interested in helping female veterans," Lt. Col. Mike Gafney of the Maryland National Guard told the Texas news paper. It was a mission "that was very dear to her heart," he said.
"She loved meeting with and helping women soldiers through the long and many times lonely path they had to face after coming back from the war," Gafney said.
Yaggie said her sister was excited to go the Middle East, but her thoughts were of her two daughters and six grandchildren.
Each leg of the funeral seemed more precise and more heartfelt than the last. The servicemen slowly carried out the honors as each motion seemed to intensify with the cold. The drums seemed to get deeper, the commands seemed to be given louder, the steps more precise -- all as if to say, not on our soil, not within our ranks.
The servicemen folded the flag that had draped Warman's coffin, and Maj. Gen. Robert J. Kasulke, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command, presented it to Philip Warman.
Three men held three other flags, and one by one, each was gently touched to Warman's casket before Kasulke handed them to Warman's daughters, Tawnya Pattillo and Melissa Czemerda, and her mother, Eva Waddle.
Czemerda also spoke to the Pittsburgh newspaper. "She really donated her life to serving her country," she said. "She loved helping people and making a difference. She was a heroine and gave her life serving her country."
Secretary of the Army John McHugh offered his condolences, and Brenda Koch, on behalf of Arlington Cemetery, offered hers.
In the last moments before walking away, family members bent down to kiss Warman's casket. She was laid to rest in Section 59, just north of Section 60, where most casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
Family members said they have been rereading Warman's last Facebook entry, written Oct. 29: "I miss my girls and their beautiful children. It's so nice to come to Facebook to see them grow up even if it's just in photographs." Warman added, "So much to do. So many lives to touch. Just wish it didn't take me away from home so much."