(WHTM) — More than 18 years ago, a young woman from Carlisle became the first female soldier from Pennsylvania to be killed in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
SSGT Kimberly Fahnestock Voelz, a graduate of Trinity High School, was just 27 years old.
And now she’s getting a special honor to prove that her service and her sacrifice are not forgotten.
Carol and Floyd Fahnestock say Kimberly joined the Army without telling them.
“She always said she wanted to do exciting things my with life and see the world so that’s what she wanted to do,” Carol said.
“We worried when she went overseas, but that was part of the job,” Floyd added.
Their daughter loved the adventure and accepted the danger. In Iraq, her job was to defuse bombs. She was the only woman in her unit, serving alongside her husband, Max Voelz. In December of 2003, a bomb she was trying to disable exploded.
She died hours later in her husband’s arms.
Max called home to Carlisle to deliver the tragic news.
“Because those soldiers were going to come to the door,” Carol said. “He wanted us to be prepared.”
“I’m proud of her,” she continued. “I’m proud of how brave she was. I don’t know I would have the courage to do what she did.”
It was because of that courage that the Lower Allen Township VFW Post 7530 made the unanimous decision to rename the organization after this exceptional soldier.
“A lot of people are able to come back in one piece to their families because of the sacrifice and dedication of EOD warriors, such as Kimberly Ann Fahnestock Voelz,” said Commander Jeff Puckett.
The building will bear her name and the space inside will tell her story.
“Kimberly is a shining example of when our nation called, she answered,” Puckett said. “Her story is something inspirational for all of us and what we all strive to be.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Carol said. “I couldn’t believe it. They want to do this after all these years? A lot of times as time goes by people forget. I was honored people still think about her.”
“That’s going to be fantastic just to know her name will be there forever and ever, even after I die her name will be there,” Floyd said. “What an honor.”
Kimberly’s parents are moved. They are grateful their daughter is being remembered for her what she did for others.
“People will remember the sacrifices our children have made to keep our country safe,” Carol said. “Freedom isn’t free. Somebody has to pay the cost, so I just hope people remember that’s what people sacrifice for.”
“She was a wonderful daughter, a patriot, a good soldier, a loving daughter and she would have made a great mother if she had a chance,” Carol said.
The VFW will officially be renamed during a special ceremony on the afternoon of April 30. Max Voelz is expected to attend as are other members of Kimberly’s unit.
This is believed to be one of the first VFW’s in the country named for a service member who was killed in action post 9-11.