WASHINGTON – An academically driven, athletically gifted and deeply religious Medical Service Corps officer from Fort Washington was killed Sept. 12 when an improvised explosive device detonated near her Humvee in Kifl, Iraq.
Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, 23, a member of the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division followed in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, both of whom served in the Army, when she was deployed to Iraq in December 2005.
“Emily Perez had a spirit akin to what we saw in the life of Mother Theresa, what we’ve read about in terms of courage as a soldier . . . of Harriet Tubman,” said Rev. Michael T. Bell, Perez’s godfather who, in addition to being her pastor, was kind of like “a second dad,” he said.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Perez moved to Fort Washington in 1998 with her family. She graduated in the top 5 percent of her class from Oxon Hill High School in 2001. And she graduated in the top 10 percent of her class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
An honor roll student who always put the books first, she impressed many with her ability to balance academics, varsity athletics and other extracurricular activities, said her high school track coach Nathaniel Laney. He called her a true “student athlete.”
“We would have study hall and she would help out other students,” Laney said. “She was one of the foundations” of the team.
Perez managed to find time for community service, working as a youth volunteer for the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministries and as an HIV/AIDS prevention peer educator for the American Red Cross.
“She was a wonderful volunteer,” said Sherry Delaney, director of public support for the Alexandria chapter of the American Red Cross. Other volunteers who were too emotional to speak to the press told Delaney she’d be very missed.
“People flocked to her,” said Pamela Jones, an administrator at the high school who worked closely with Perez as a senior class adviser. “She always had a smile on her face, a very, very beautiful young lady.”
When asked to describe her, Laney repeated one word over and over, almost like an incantation: “Special.”
Funeral services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal church in Fort Washington where Bell will give the eulogy. Perez will be buried Tuesday at West Point Cemetery in New York.
Perez is survived by her parents, Daniel and Vicki Perez of Fort Washington; and brother, Kevyn, of Fayetteville, N.C.