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LA PALOMA — An American flag stands behind Pfc. Adriana Alvarez as she smiles from the portrait that hangs next to the front door of her home.
"She was very young," her older sister, Alma Alvarez, said as tears welled in her eyes.
Adriana Alvarez, 20, became the Rio Grande Valley’s first servicewoman to be killed in the Iraq war, an official said Friday.
The U.S. Army policewoman was found Wednesday in Baghdad with a gunshot wound, her sister said. Military officials were investigating Alvarez’s death, her sister said.
"The family’s overwhelmed," said Lydia Caballero, a spokeswoman for America’s Last Patrol, who said the organization was speaking on the family’s behalf.
"The family is very confused," Caballero told reporters early Friday evening. "In the last two or three hours everything began to sink in."
Alvarez is the Valley’s 30th service member to die in Iraq, and the third from San Benito to die.
"We have been in close contact with the Department of Defense and the Army and will continue to be in close contact with the military regarding the death of Pfc. Adriana Alvarez," said Jose Borjon, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi.
Alma Alvarez said she spoke with her sister on Monday, about two days before her death.
"It was something different for her," Alma Alvarez said of her sister’s tour in Iraq. "She said everything was fine."
Alvarez’s body is expected to arrive at the San Benito Funeral Home on Thursday or Friday, said Liza Guerra, an assistant there.
At San Benito High School, her sister dreamed of becoming a police officer, Alma Alvarez said.
"Adriana Alvarez attended schools in San Benito, graduated in 2008 and made an admirable and courageous decision — to enlist and serve our country," school Superintendent Antonio Limon said in a news release.
In August 2008, Adriana Alvarez joined the Army, her sister said.
"She wanted to pursue a career in the criminal justice department and she decided the best way was to get into the military," she said.
Last August, Adriana Alvarez left for Iraq to serve a one-year tour of duty, her sister said.
"We were devastated. We didn’t want her to go but there was nothing we could do," Alma Alvarez said. "She knew there were risks. She knew she had to do it for her country. She did what she had to do and she was proud of it."
State Rep. Eddie Lucio III hailed Alvarez as a hometown hero.
"The Rio Grande Valley, as Texas, has lost many — too many — like Pfc. Alvarez. She is unique, however, because she is the first young woman from our community to lose her life in this war," Lucio said in a news release. "While we grieve for our tremendous loss today, we also honor those that continue to fight tomorrow."
Ortiz asked for prayers for Alvarez’s family.
"I know that this is a difficult time for the Alvarez family but I know how proud our nation and the community of San Benito are of Pfc. Adriana Alvarez’s selfless service in defense of the United States," Ortiz said in a news release.
The San Benito Funeral Home is in charge of funeral arrangements.