Army Specialist Was First Md. Woman Killed in Iraq
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Last week, Army Specialist Toccara Green became the first woman from the state of Maryland to be killed in combat in Iraq. A roadside bomb exploded near her vehicle while she was on a convoy mission. Just a week earlier, Green was home in Baltimore, visiting her parents. Sarah Richards has this report.
SARAH RICHARDS reporting:
Garry Green is thinking back to the day he was busting down a door, serving an arrest warrant for the Baltimore Police Department. He was searching for an armed fugitive.
Mr. GARRY GREEN (Toccara Green's Father): Boom, boom. All right. They let us in. When we get to the house, all this confusion going on, `No, no, he ain't here, he ain't here.'
RICHARDS: Right in the middle of the chaos, his cell phone rings, and it's a call he's got to take. It's Army Specialist Toccara Green, his daughter `Tee,' calling from Iraq.
Mr. GREEN: Oh, my God. I got a armed suspect, wanted on various charges. Ring-a-ling-ling. `Hello?' `Hey, Daddy.' `Ah! Tee, I'll call you--Tee, call right back.' `Hold on Daddy, look, tell Mama to put $3,000 in my checking account, and...'
RICHARDS: Twenty-three-year-old Toccara Green wasn't the kind of person to wait around. Born and raised in Baltimore, she was named after the Avon perfume her mother used to sell. But her pastor, Lenora Howze, says Toccara wasn't interested in frilly lace and girlie stuff. When Toccara was home two weeks ago on leave, she got a pleasant surprise at church.
Pastor LENORA HOWZE (Toccara Green's Pastor): The first Sunday she was home was--we deemed that casual Sunday, so when she came home, she was like, `Oh, I'm so glad I came home at the right time. I can wear my casual clothes to church.'
RICHARDS: Green excelled in ROTC at Forest Park High School. She joined the Army in 2002 and was a member of the 10th Mountain Division. Toccara loved the Army, certainly more than the Marines, which her brother had joined five years earlier. Garry Green.
Mr. GREEN: I mean, it got so comical, because I got a flagpole outside, right? And she got upset because I put the Marine flag on top of her 10th Mountain Division flag. She got upset. `But Dad, I'm in ROTC for four years,' blah, blah, blah. She said, `That ought to account for something.' I said, `No, Tee. He'd been in Marines first.' So they'd go back and forth with that, you know?
RICHARDS: When she was home earlier this month, Toccara went roller skating at the Shake and Bake Roller Rink. She saw "War of the Worlds" with her dad. Then the Greens held a huge party for their daughter in the back yard. Toccara's mother, Yvonne, said more than 50 people showed up.
Ms. YVONNE GREEN (Toccara Green's Mother): We had a cookout, you know, had all the family. She got all her favorite foods, her ice cream cake. She got to see her buddies.
RICHARDS: A week later, Toccara was killed in Iraq. Garry Green says the tents from her party are still standing in the back yard.
Mr. GREEN: I never got a chance to put all the items back away because I was too busy working. I didn't know I was going to use the same equipment, the same tent, the same chairs, while we was planning her funeral, you know? And that was a little rough.
RICHARDS: Toccara told her parents that part of her job was manning a 50-caliber gun on a truck so enormous the tires were bigger than her. Her unit was carrying supplies in Al Asad when explosives went off during a refueling stop. Garry Green says he knew Tee's job was dangerous, just like his job as a Baltimore cop.
Mr. GREEN: If she would have said, `Well, Daddy, I'm scared. I don't want to go back,' that would have tore me up. But she never said that. She never said that, so I gained strength from her strength.
RICHARDS: Army Specialist Toccara Green had three months left in Iraq. She was thinking about re-enlisting, but only if she wouldn't be deployed again. She'll be buried Friday in Arlington National Cemetery.
For NPR News, I'm Sarah Richards.
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
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