A 22-year-old Mesa woman has been killed while fighting in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.
Army Pfc. Barbara Vieyra died Sept. 18 of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her unit using an improvised explosive device and rocket propelled grenade fire in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Vieyra, an expert marksman, was in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. She is a 2006 graduate of Skyline High School and also the mother of a 3-year-old girl, Evelyn.
Vieyra was assigned to the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, at Fort Hood, Texas.
Vieyra grew up in east Mesa near a number of dairy farms close to the Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202, where her father, Raul Hernandez, has worked at the dairy as an assistant herder for 24 years, according to Jose Correa, a milker at the dairy, which has about 1,000 Jersey cows.
Correa and other neighbors said that the woman’s family left for Delaware on Sunday to greet her remains being flown to the United States.
On her Facebook profile, Vieyra has 172 friends and listed Laser Tag, competitive swimming and dancing among her interests.
“She was a nice young lady,” Correa said.
Ellie Rael, a liaison at Skyline who works with school staff and students, told the Tribune on Tuesday that she remembered Vieyra as a “just a nice person,” who was quiet and respectable.
“She was a patriotic person and just an average person who really didn’t stand out, but loved her country and stood up for the flag,” Rael said. “She was an artistic person who loved to paint, and played on the JV (junior varsity) softball team. She was focused on graduating and was a happy person.”
Micala Gonzalez, a neighbor whose father works at a dairy next to Keenstra’s, said Barbara and her younger sister, Lupita, used to come over to their house when they were little and would play and have their hair done.
“We were surprised to hear about what happened,” Gonzalez said. “We haven’t seen her too much since she joined the service.”
Workers at the dairy believed Vieyra’s family was going to return to Mesa from Delaware on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.