Mesa family honors life of first female E.V. soldier killed in Afghanistan - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa family honors life of first female E.V. soldier killed in Afghanistan

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Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2010 11:24 am | Updated: 5:34 pm, Tue Nov 23, 2010.

At 3 years old, Evelyn Vieyra doesn't understand why her mother doesn't call her on the telephone anymore.

But, someday when she's old enough, her grandparents and aunt and uncle said they will make sure Evelyn knows the importance of what her mother, Army Pfc. Barbara Vieyra was doing in the U.S. Army and that she died in an honorable way - serving her country.

That is why this Veterans Day holds more meaning for the Raul Vieyra family, who live on the Feenstra Dairy in east Mesa where an Army representative hung an American flag from the front of the ranch house surrounded by the sounds of farm machinery, intermittent moos from the Jersey cows positioning for a place at the trough and cars driving by.

Vieyra, 22, an expert marksman with the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, was stationed at Ft. Hood but requested to serve in Afghanistan. She died on Sept. 18 from wounds suffered when insurgents in the violent Kunar Province attacked her unit using an improvised explosive device and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the Department of Defense.

Vieyra, the oldest of three siblings, is believed to be the first woman from the East Valley to die in the Middle Eastern conflicts, and her family received numerous cards of support from people from throughout the United States soon after her death. Her unit was deployed to Afghanistan in April.

This Veterans Day was marked by the Vieyras with more patriotism than ones in the past, the family says.

"Before, it really didn't mean too much to me," Barbara's brother, Roberto, 16, said of the holiday. "Before, we'd try to talk to her and send her stuff on Veterans Day. Now, it will be a day not really to celebrate, but to honor her. I never thought she would join the military. She was really girly. She always dressed really good."

Barbara's mother, Elizabeth Vieyra, said that the family would have a dinner in her honor and pray for her.

"We really can't explain how we feel," Elizabeth Vieyra said. "We feel bad and feel very good because she was doing something very good for this country. Barbara loved her job in the army, and she'd do everything for this country.

"She gave her last minute for this country."

Vieyra's death in the raw and war-ravaged Middle Eastern country hits a tender spot in the hearts of her family which now is raising Evelyn. Raul Vieyra, an assistant herder at the Feenstra Dairy where he has worked for 25 years, still cannot speak about losing his daughter.

Raul and Elizabeth Vieyra moved to Arizona from Mexico 27 years ago looking for jobs and have lived in Mesa since.

Evelyn has been asking her grandmother to phone her mother, "Babala," how the 3-year-old pronounces her mother's name because she can't pronounce the "r" in Barbara.

"She's too little to understand," Elizabeth Vieyra said. "She asks too many questions. She says ‘You have to call my mom, Babala, but now, we tell her that her mother is working or busy and can't talk. We really don't know what to tell her."

Barbara, a 2006 graduate of Mesa's Skyline High School, enjoyed helping people and loved painting, writing and poems. She joined the Army three years ago after working in food service for a retirement home to help provide her daughter with a better life, Barbara's sister, Lupe Vieyra said. Barbara never hunted and didn't shoot guns as a teenager, but after she became a military police officer, she honed her experience to the point where she became classified as an expert marksman, Lupe said.

"As I commemorate Veterans Day, I have a better understanding of someone being far away in the military, and with all this happening, we're going to be more patriotic," Lupe Vieyra said. "We're all going to miss her a lot, but we all want to make sure Evelyn knows the importance what her mother was doing and that it was a good thing for her country. We plan to make a video, so years from now, when she asks about her mother, she'll know about her and understand more. Barbara was a good mother and loved her daughter."

The Vieyras said when the American Flag was raised at their house on Veterans Day in honor of Barbara, they would be proud.

"She gave her life serving this country," Elizabeth Vieyra said, "and that is an honor for her and for us."

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