Celebration of life event marks 10 year anniversary of first Native El Paso woman killed in action


POSTED: Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 1:51pm

UPDATED: Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 5:02pm

Sgt Isela Rubalcava was killed in a mortar attack in Mosul, Iraq on May 8, 2004.

It's been nearly 10 years since El Paso native Sergeant Isela Rubalcava was killed in an attack in Iraq on May 8, 2004.  She was the first woman from the borderland killed in action.

Rubalcava, a graduate of Canutillo High School, left UTEP and joined the U.S. Army in 2000, and was deployed to Mosul, Iraq from 2003-2004.

"We were attacked with mortar rounds, and I found her in the bunker that night shortly after the attack and performed CPR on her," said Veronica Landry, who was working alongside Rubalcava in Iraq.

She remembers the attack as if it happened yesterday.  She also recalls her unsuccessful attempt to save Sgt. Rubalcava's life.

"Since that night, I have vowed that since I couldn't keep her alive, I'd love to keep her memory alive and her legacy alive," Landry said.

Landry now volunteers with the Sgt. Isela Rubalcava LULAC council.  She wants to make sure that everyone remembers "Sgt. Ruby."

"Rubalcava was too difficult for anybody to say so she's Sgt "Ruby" to everybody," said Landry.

For Sgt. Ruby's mother, Maria, ten years has not dulled the memory of that fateful day.  She clearly remembers when she first got word of her daughter's death.  It was Mother's Day 2004.

"Every day I pray to God, 'Dear Lord, help me.' I ask my daughter, 'Help me make it through another day,'" she said.

It was also another three days before Sgt. Ruby's 26th birthday.  It was a celebration she was never able to attend, but one that her family continues to celebrate.

"We've never stopped celebrating her life. Her father says, 'As long as the Lord gives me life, I will continue to celebrate my "little monkey's" birthday.'  That's what he used to call her," said Maria.

Maria said she finds strength in her faith, and can't help but wonder what her daughter's life would be like today.

"I often sit here in my living room and look at her and think it's been ten years. Where would her life be now? Would she be married? Would she have kids?"

Landry said she knew Sgt. Ruby planned to return to UTEP and earn a college degree.  That's why the money LULAC raises will go toward a scholarship fund for area students.

"They're fulfilling her dream by going to college. She gave up so much to serve our country, and she gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield," said Landry.

Sgt. Isela Rubalcava's 10th Anniversary Remembrance and Life Celebration will be on Saturday, May 10 at 5pm.  It will be held at Stolley's Riverwalk located at 311 West Borderland Rd.  The attire is casual (open collar, jeans).  Dinner will be provided.  The event is free, but an RSVP is required.  To RSVP contact Veronica Landry, 318-344-1100.

Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, also a Canutillo native, will be the guest speaker. He is flying in from Washington, D.C. to attend. 

Retired Colonel Dennis Thompson, the commander of the battalion that SGT Ruby was serving with when she died, will also travel from Virginia to attend.


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