By Spc. Justin Naylor

1st Cavalry Division public affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq - Soldiers, airmen and civilians gathered to mourn the loss of Pvt. Francheska Velez in a memorial service held in her honor Friday at Forward Operating Base Warrior.

Velez was killed during a tragic shooting Nov. 5 at Fort Hood.

Her military awards included the National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Marksmanship Badge.

Velez was born Aug. 20, 1988, and she grew up in Chicago. She joined the Army in Feb. 27, 2007, and attended basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Va., where she graduated as a petroleum supply specialist.

After graduating, she attended the Petroleum Vehicle Operators Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and was stationed at Camp Casey, Korea, as her first assignment. She arrived at Fort Hood on Oct. 30, 2008, where she was assigned to Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. She deployed to Iraq with the unit in January.

"I cannot say anything today to diminish the impact of losing Francheska," said Lt. Col. David Lesperance, the commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.

"We do not know where troopers like Francheska come from, except to say they are the kind of people which make America great," he continued. "We honor Pvt. Francheska Velez today, whose personal example was that of happiness and contentment."

"If you knew her, you knew she was all smiles and laughter," said Sgt. Michael Armstead, one of Velez's noncommissioned officers. "Every day Velez came to work with a smile on her face."

"She was someone who was always willing to help anyone at any given time," said her close friend, Spc. Prudence Augustine. "She is someone that I am happy came in my life. She is an inspiration to me in many ways and will always have a special place in my heart."

Velez is survived by her parents, Eillen Rodriguez and Juan G. Velez, and her brothers, Juan and Andrew Velez.

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