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Family still aches from Navy lieutenant's killing in Afghanistan; she was there to help Afghan medical care.

May 31, 2010 |  3:57 pm


Standing amid the rows and rows of graves at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, Francisca Bacong says she still cannot understand the nightmare that took the life of her only daughter, Navy Lt. Florence Choe.

As the nation today celebrates Memorial Day amid increasing American combat deaths in Afghanistan — 140 this year; more than 1,000 since the invasion in 2001 — Choe's death is proof anew of an immutable fact: War's cruelty is sometimes incomprehensible.

Choe, 35, a hospital administrative specialist, had gone to Afghanistan to help the Afghans establish a hospital for their military and civilians. She was devoted to her husband and young daughter in San Diego, but the call to duty was strong.

She and two other U.S. military personnel were jogging inside the perimeter of the base near Mazar-i-Sharif on March 27, 2009, when an insurgent posing as an Afghan soldier shot all three at point-blank range.

As Choe fell to the ground, the gunman stood over her and fired again. Choe and another Navy officer were killed, the third runner was seriously wounded but survived and the insurgent killed himself as armed U.S. guards came running.

"She went there to help the Afghan people," said Bacong, her voice trembling. "She had asked us to send clothes and chocolate and magazines for them, and we did. And then this happens."

Read the full story here.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

At Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, the family of Navy Lt. Florence Choe, who was killed in Afghanistan last year, visit her grave.  "She was our only daughter," her mother said. She was in Afghanistan to help establish a hospital for Afghan military and civilians. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / May 26, 2010)