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Alyssa Sunkin

May 3, 2011

HARRIMAN — It was a tribute both emotional and humbling, befitting a fallen soldier.

2nd Lt. Emily Perez, a 2005 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was killed in Iraq on Sept. 12, 2006.

Her name will live on in the village, as the American Legion Mulligan-Eden Post 1573 in Harriman dedicated River Road as 2LT Emily J.T. Perez Memorial Way, and unveiled a memorial near the ballfield.

"Frankly, it's breathtaking," said Vicki Perez, Emily Perez's mom, of the honor.

The Perez family and friends traveled from Fort Washington, Md., to participate in the ceremony. "This will ensure Emily's legacy and the sacrifices of all the other fallen soldiers."

Perez was the first female minority to serve as cadet command sergeant major at West Point. She graduated in the top 10 percent of her class and was a four-year letterman in track.

After graduating, she was assigned to the 240th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and deployed to Iraq in 2005 as a Medical Service Corps officer.

She died when an improvised explosive device detonated near her Humvee during combat operations.

She was the first female graduate of West Point to die in Iraq, and the first American female black and Hispanic officer to die in combat. At 23, she earned the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Commendation Medal and numerous other honors. She was an inspiration to all who knew her, said Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., West Point's superintendent.

Jerry Oser knew Perez was special. "She struck me as a very sincere and proud leader," said Oser, commander of the Harriman American Legion Post and organizer of the ceremony and dedication.

"When you see someone like that, you think, 'Oh boy, she's going to go a long way.'"

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