Lizbeth Robles (April 4, 1973 – March 1, 2005) was the first Puerto Rican female soldier to die in combat. She was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom when she died.
Early years and education
Robles was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. In 1978, her parents moved to Boston. The family returned to Vega Baja, in 1983, where her father was a church pastor and Robles the leader of the church's youth group. After graduating from Lino Padrón Rivera High School, she attended the American University of Puerto Rico in Manatí. After one year at the university, she was unable to pay the tuition and transferred to the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. There she was able to receive financial aid and complete her degree.
According to her brother, Robles was dissatisfied with the jobs available to her before being hired by Bristol Myers Squibb, in the town of Barceloneta. Robles enlisted in the Armed Forces of the United States in 2000. She joined the U.S. Army and received her basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, where she was sent to Fort Hood and assigned to the 46th Chemical Company. Later, she was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was assigned to the 659th Maintenance Co. Robles was sent to South Korea, where she was assigned to the 4th Chem Co. at Camp Casey. She also served in Uzbekistan before being assigned to Fort Carson in Colorado.
Robles, who enjoyed driving tankers and trucks, was then assigned to the 360th Transportation Company, 68th Corps Support Battalion. There she lived with her husband Stokey Smith. After she received her deployment orders, but before she left for Iraq, Robles went to Puerto Rico, where she spent the Thanksgiving of 2004 with her friends and family. After that last Thanksgiving with her family, she went to Iraq, where she reported to her company. During her service in Iraq, Robles volunteered to join the 43rd Area Support Group, which rode in convoys to secure dangerous roadways and allow the delivery of fuel.
On February 28, 2005, SPC Lizbeth Robles and Sgt. Julio Negron were killed when a Humvee they were riding in flipped over in the town of Bayji, Iraq. They were rushed to the 228th Command Support Hospital in Tikrit where both of them later died of the injuries sustained from the accident. Robles was the first Puerto Rican female soldier and one of the first 2000 American soldiers who died in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Robles was on her second tour in Iraq when she died.
Lizbeth Robles' remains arrived in Puerto Rico on March 6, 2005. She was buried with full military honors in the Puerto Rico National Cemetery located in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Her name along with the others who have perished in Afghanistan and Iraq, was engraved in "El Monumento de la Recordación" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen soldiers and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico and unveiled by Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock and PR National Guard Adjutant General Col. David Carrión Baralt on Memorial Day, 2007.
According to Jorge Mariscal, writing for CounterPunch, "The story of Lizbeth Robles teaches us much about young women in today’s “volunteer” army," including because "Although women are not technically given combat arms occupations, assignments such as that of Robles account for many of the killed and wounded," and "Despite the harsh realities for women in the military, some like Lizbeth Robles decide to make the military their career."
In 2014, Lizbeth Robles' name, along with the names of 23 others who perished in Iraq, was engraved in a monument and placed at the Fort Leonard Wood's Chemical Memorial Grove.
In 2007, the Connecticut General Assembly was reminded that Robles was the first Puerto Rican woman to die in a war zone. Assembly members were asked to consider Robles and other Hispanic-American soldiers who died in a war zone as impetus for the passing of legislature to support Hispanic-American veterans because "According to the Pew Hispanic Center, while Latinos make up 9.5% of the actively enlisted forces, they are over represented in the categories that get the most dangerous assignments, infantry, gun crews, and seamanship, and make up over 17.5% of the front lines."
Awards and decorations
Among SPC Lizbeth Robles' decorations and medals were the following:
|Purple Heart||National Defense Service Medal||Iraq Campaign Medal with one service star|
|Global War on Terrorism Service Medal||Army Service Ribbon||Army Overseas Service Ribbon|
Other articles of the topics Puerto Rico AND Biography : José L. Rivera, José L. Santiago, Abdiel Colberg, Angel Mendez, Rafel Toro, Luis F. Castro, Irene M. Zoppi
Other articles of the topic Puerto Rico : Steven Ehricks, Frankie Segarra, Evelio Otero Jr., Abdiel Colberg, Domingo Arroyo Jr., Manuel Rivera Jr., Jorge Otero Barreto
Other articles of the topic Biography : Joe A. Guerra, Sava Ipić, Dr Mohammed Orfli, Billy Guin, Amos J. Taylor, William da Silva Guimarães, Eugene F. George
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- List of Puerto Ricans
- List of Puerto Rican military personnel
- Puerto Rican women in the military
- History of women in Puerto Rico
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A joint memorial service for Sgt. Julio Negron and Spc. Lizbeth Robles is set in Fort Carson's Soldiers Memorial Chapel on Tuesday.
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