First U.S. Women Killed In Gulf War Came From Same Rural Area
ROCHESTER MILLS, Pa. (AP) _ Christine Mayes got engaged the day she left for the Gulf War and gave her ring to her fiance for safekeeping. Beverly Clark left a job in a door and window plant to serve overseas.
Their relatives learned Wednesday the women, both from rural Indiana County in western Pennsylvania, were the first American female soldiers reported killed in the war with Iraq.
″She was proud to serve her country. She wanted to go to do what she could,″ said Ms. Mayes’ mother, Darlene.
Ms. Mayes, 22, of Rochester Mills and Ms. Clark, 23, of Armagh died when an Iraqi Scud missile leveled their barracks Monday in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.
Twenty-six other soldiers were killed in the attack, and 89 were injured, the Army said.
Both women were specialists in the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, an Army Reserve water purification unit based in Greensburg. The 99th Army Reserve Command of suburban Pittsburgh said Wednesday at least 11 members of the 14th died in the Scud attack.
Spc. Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, 20, of Grand Rapids, Mich., is listed by the Pentagon as missing in action. The Pentagon on Wednesday night released the name of another of the women killed in the attack, Spc. Adrienne L. Mitchell, 20, of Moreno Valley, Calif.
Mrs. Mayes said she talked with her daughter Sunday night.
″She said she would be leaving for the desert the next day, and she was thinking of us here,″ she said.
The Mayeses learned of their daughter’s death Wednesday morning when an ROTC sergeant from Indiana University of Pennsylvania knocked on the door of their home in Rochester Mills, about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
″I’m numb,″ said her father, Franklin Mayes. ″We didn’t hear from her for two days, and it’s been so long so we figured she was all right.″
Her fiance, David Fairbanks of Punxsutawney, had visited the Mayes’ home Wednesday and traveled to Fort Lee, Va., with her parents Feb. 17, the day Ms. Mayes left for Saudi Arabia. He proposed to her at the base.
″She told him to keep the ring because she was afraid she was going to lose it,″ Mrs. Mayes said. ″She was doing what she wanted to do. I was proud of her. I don’t hold this against anybody.″
Ms. Mayes was a business student at Indiana University’s Punxsutawney campus when she was activated in October to support Operation Desert Shield, her mother said. She previously served three years in the Army as a kitchen worker in Germany.
Ms. Clark was a supervisor at Season-All Building Products in Indiana.
″She just was a fine all-around human being,″ said Sam Heckel, personnel director at the Indiana plant. ″Everyone’s pretty devastated. There’s been a lot of tears.″
Ms. Clark won letters in volleyball, softball and basketball at United High School before she graduated in 1985, according to her sister’s husband, Dave Hawk of Armagh.
She wanted to enlist in the Army when she graduated, but her family talked her out of it, Hawk said. She was worried about serving in the Gulf War, he said.
″The girl wasn’t very excited when they saw her off,″ said Ms. Clark’s grandmother, Ruth Clark.