MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Lance Corporal Holly Charette was buried in Exeter, Rhode Island, on Saturday. Charette was killed on June 23rd in Iraq when a suicide bomber struck her convoy outside of Fallujah. She was 21 years old. Five other soldiers, including two other women, were also killed in the attack. Emily Zeugner of member station WCAI visited Charette's hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island, and sent this report.
EMILY ZEUGNER reporting:
The day after the Marines came to tell Charette's family that Holly was dead, two satellite TV trucks pulled up to their front lawn. A few hours later, People magazine called. Charette and her fellow Marine, Ramona Valdez of New York, were the first two women Marines to be killed in Iraq. Overwhelmed with grief, Charette's parents sent Holly's cousin, Kathy Hopkins, outside to read a statement to the media.
Ms. KATHY HOPKINS (Charette Spokesperson): She was a proud Marine. She brought a little piece of home to all the fellow Marines she delivered mail to. We would also like everyone to remember her beautiful smiling face and her motherly personality. Just please remember Holly.
ZEUGNER: Now the TV trucks are gone. Charette's aunt says her cell phone has finally stopped ringing every hour. Charette's family and friends are beginning to deal with their grief. Pictures in the paper and on TV are of a small woman with brown eyes, dark blonde hair and deep dimples. A military photograph shows her in her official role as mail clerk for the Marines in Iraq. She stands in the sun smiling, dwarfed by military fatigues and a big yellow mail sack. An online memorial to Charette was flooded with hundreds of postings, all saying the same thing, she was so happy. She was so full of life. She made everyone smile.
In high school, she was a cheerleader. A few months after the September 11th terrorist attack, Holly Charette announced that she was joining the Marines. Her friends said the choice fit a spunky person like Holly. Lauren Maker was Charette's high school English teacher.
Ms. LAUREN MAKER (English Teacher): You know, I can just picture her walking into boot camp. I can picture her walking into the mailroom. I can picture her delivering mail. I can picture her with a group of people who are sad, who are missing their families and I can just picture her putting a smile on their faces.
ZEUGNER: After the burial, Charette's aunts and uncles gathered on Oakland Beach to watch Independence Day fireworks.
(Soundbite of fireworks)
ZEUGNER: They talked about how Holly grew from a rambunctious little blonde girl to a determined woman who picked the Marines over the Army because she thought it would be tougher. Charette's aunt, Charlene Wheetman, marveled over her niece's strengths.
Ms. CHARLENE WHEETMAN (Holly Charette's Aunt): You know, I remember, she came home one time when she--I think right when she got out of boot camp and she could, like, take one of her brothers down in, like, two seconds. I don't even know what she did. She touched him in one spot and he went, like, right down to the floor. So she was very proud of that.
ZEUGNER: Now the relatives must adjust to life without such a vibrant member of the family. Wheetman says she's mostly worried about her sister, Holly's mom, who cried for a month after Charette left for the Marines and sent packages of sunblock and Fruit Roll-Ups to her every single day she was gone.
Ms. WHEETMAN: They were best friends. Of course, she was a girl growing up in a house with four boys. They would go places together, and they would talk all the time. They were, you know--it was hard for my sister even, like, to see her grow up 'cause that was her little girl, you know.
ZEUGNER: Charette was engaged to another Marine, Alex Rodriguez, who flew home for the burial. He will help put a flagpole on the front lawn of the family's pale green ranch. Charette's stepfather wants to hang an American flag and a Marine flag in honor of his daughter. For NPR News, I'm Emily Zeugner.
NORRIS: Coming up, saving antique stoves from the junkyard. That's when we continue with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
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