May 30, 2016
HARKER HEIGHTS — Sitting at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers reminiscing with friends after marching in Saturday’s Memorial Day parade, Adrienne Evans-Quickley was having a good time telling stories with her fellow veterans with the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association Genevieve Chapter 94.
It had been a good day for the retired Army sergeant first class — good fellowship with good friends, telling stories of their brothers and sisters in uniform who had paid the ultimate price for their nation in faraway lands, laying down their lives for the freedom of others.
One of those lost, however, was harder to talk about than others. The young lady she spoke of was more an adopted member of the family, one she herself had talked into becoming a soldier.
One Evans-Quickley had known since she was a young girl spending summers with her grandmother in Belton and going to church with them.
But pride shone brightly through the tears in her eyes as she spoke of Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez — pride in her accomplishments before her young life was cut short, pride in the wonderful leader she would have become.
“Emily was passionate about everything she did — she was in the choir, worked diligently to make sure everything she did was something everyone was going to pitch in and help with,” she said. “If Emily was doing, you were going to do it as well. It happened every summer.”
Evans-Quickley was serving on active duty and working for the III Corps commander, something Perez found fascinating because she was the first woman she had ever met who was actively serving, she said.
“She kept asking, ‘How did you do this? I don’t understand how you do it.’ And one day she said she was going to accept an appointment to West Point,” Evans-Quickley said.
Perez would excel during her time at West Point, eventually becoming the first minority female command sergeant major for the prestigious military academy and graduating at the top of her class.
After graduating and receiving her commission, she was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood and was sent to Iraq six months later.
“Right before she left, she decided to donate bone marrow. She was a passionate person, but she said she was determined that someone would live if she could help it,” Evans-Quickley said. “I said, do you know how painful that is? But she did it anyway — she was so determined to make a difference in someone’s life.”
On Sept. 12, 2006, Perez — an emergency services nurse — volunteered to go out on patrol near Najaf in southern Iraq. An improvised explosive device exploded under her Humvee, killing the 23-year-old. She was the only one in the vehicle to die.
“I remember the day it happened like it was yesterday — we were in a conference in Waco and her grandmother was with us,” the retired soldier said, wiping away her tears. “We had been talking about her, and (her grandmother) said she had talked to (Perez) the night before. I got a phone call — I used to check the morning report every day for our church, but someone had taken over for me that day while I was gone — and asked me what Emily’s last name was. I was like, come on, Perez? And she said, ‘I have an Emily Perez on the morning report, killed by an IED.’ I had done casualty assistance for 24 years, and nothing ever hurt so much as that call did.”
It was hardest because it wasn’t one of her soldiers — it was more like losing her own child, she said.
“I had been getting ready to retire, and I had been happy to leave it to her and my son — who graduated the same year and was also a second lieutenant — because I knew the Army would be in good hands, She would have gone on to do great and wonderful things,” she said.