Family, community remember young diplomat killed in Afghanistan

Family, community remember young diplomat killed in Afghanistan

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OAK PARK, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

A memorial service was held Tuesday for a River Forest woman who was killed in Afghanistan. Anne Smedinghoff was working for the State Department as a diplomat when the attack took place.

SEE: 'Exceptional' River Forest woman killed in Afghanistan attack

The Tuesday morning mass took place at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, where the 25-year-old went to school. Hundreds of mourners attended the service, where emotional memories were shared.

Smedinghoff was working as a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan when she and four other Americans traveling in a convoy of vehicles were killed by a suicide bomber on Saturday. They were on their way to deliver books to a brand new school. Smedinghoff's remains were returned to Dover Air Force Base on Monday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Tuesday, the military identified the three other slain soldiers as 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward of Oak Ridge, Tenn.; 25-year-old Spc. Wilbel A. Robles-Santa of Juncos, Pureto Rico; and 24-year-old Spc. Delfin M. Santos Jr. of San Jose, Calif. They were deployed with the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

Smedinghoff is being remembered as a bright young woman, who died doing what she loved: Making a positive difference in the world. They said she tried to connect and gain a better understanding of the people she worked with.

At Tuesday's memorial mass, one of her old teachers implored the student body to follow her example: To read, to dedicate their lives to the service of others and to do something on this election day that the people of Afghanistan have only had a recent chance to do.

"The first might seem terribly simple, but it's terribly important - and that is to vote," Smedinghoff's former teacher said. "Anne went to Afghanistan to bring democracy to people who had never voted in their lives. It would be hypocrisy for us as adults to have the opportunity to vote and just not care. Just be too busy to complete Anne's work."

"We should be inspired by Ann. By her quiet intelligence and driving do good work," her former Spanish teacher Irene Drago said at the service. "Clearly, her enormous heart has moved us toward greater diplomacy around the world."

Smedinghoff returned to Fenwick a few months ago for a visit, and her former teacher tearfully recalled how her former student now looked like a polished diplomat.

"I will remember her as serenely beautiful champion for peace and justice," Drago said.

Ironically, in high school, Smedinghoff moderated Fenwick's first mock presidential debate. One of the students played the role of candidate John Kerry. Kerry recently became Smedinghoff's boss at the State Department, and after the killings, called her a "selfless, idealistic young woman."

Smedinghoff's life and tragic death have inspired Fenwick High School students to dream big, and try to make a difference.

"I actually do want to go into Foreign Service," one student said. "This was kind of something that showed me and my family that you have to be selfless in order to do that. You can't necessarily be self-seeking, and that's something I didn't really think about until this. So I would definitely say that I'm inspired by her."

"It's now up to us to validate Anne's life," Fenwick teacher Dr. Gerald Lordan said. "It's up to us to complete the work that she began."

Smedinghoff graduated in 2005. She was a National Merit Scholar. After joining the service she traveled to Venezuela and volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

She is survived by her parents and her brothers and sisters.

Funeral arrangements for Anne Smedinghoff have still not been announced.

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