It’s not often that someone changes the world at such a young age, nor is it common for the impact to be lasting and growing. But for Emily Perez Cadet Command Sergeant Major in the United States Military Academy at West Point, both are true. Emily was born February 19, 1983 and lived just 23 years, and yet in that very short time accomplished what so many who live many years longer wish they could achieve.
Emily Perez, the daughter of Daniel and Vicki Perez, and younger sister to Kevyn, received some of our country’s highest honors from West Point Academy. She was the first African-American woman to become Command Sergeant Major for her entire senior year.
At West Point, Emily ranked at the top five percent of her class, excelled at track and field, and sang in the school’s gospel choir. She committed fully to her time at West Point, leading and serving others. Even through the many challenges she faced as a woman of color she never wavered in fulfilling her calling to serve.
Her commendations are remarkable, awe inspiring even, yet when we hear the warm, reflective and loving voices of her parents recall her life, these are not the things that truly matter. The list of Emily’s achievements are tangible and worthy of honor but her legacy of faith and favor is what will inspire others to be the servants just as she lived.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
Given the support and tools to experience the world, and learn independence, Emily’s parents nurtured her gifts, and fostered her faith in God. Vicki Perez, proudly and reverently tells of Emily’s spiritual commitment being well beyond her years as a child. She recounts that church was a home for Emily, and not an obligation.
And throughout her time at West Point, it was her faith and God’s favor that protected her through some of the most difficult challenges in her position and rank as a young African-American woman. As a career Army veteran himself, Emily’s father, Daniel Perez, was his daughter’s guide, her counsel and her confidante. He and Emily shared a bond that was their own, and Emily knew without a doubt that when she called home and said “Father,” that he understood.
During Emily’s senior year at West Point, she shared her testimony of faith. Offering her spiritual experience that what God could do for her, He too is able to do for others. What Emily knew is that everything she accomplished in life was because of her faith in God, and while she served her country, honored her family, and represented her community, she understood that nothing she achieved was because of her own doing but rather was from the goodness and greatness of God.
Upon graduation from West Point Emily was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division of the United States Army. Emily was killed in action on September 12, 2006, while leading a convoy through Al Kifl, Iraq. She was the first female African-American officer in US military history to die in combat.
There are no words to fully express the loss of her life yet we look at Emily's service, her commitment, and her heart and are thankful for having known her through her legacy of faith and favor.