'She was somebody I wanted my daughter to look up to'

 'She was somebody I wanted my daughter to look up to' »Play Video
Pvt. Erin McLyman
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Family and friends are mourning the loss of a Lewis-McChord soldier killed in Iraq.

26-year-old Private Erin McLyman was killed in an enemy mortar attack on her base.

It's not hard to figure out why Erin touched so many people, just ask anyone who knew her.

"She was somebody that I wanted my daughter to look up to," said Dee Dee Johnson.

Dee Dee met Erin a year ago in Federal Way, and they clicked right off the bat.

"(She was) kind-hearted, gentle, but feisty," Johnson said.

Then Erin told Dee Dee about her past and the two bonded for life.

Erin was featured in 2001 on our sister station KVAL-TV in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon as a story of inspiration. In that story, she said, "I drank, and I smoked a lot of weed -- marijuana, used crack and cocaine"

Back then, she was still in high school and hooked on drugs and alcohol.

"My grades were dropping and I wasn't going to class," Erin said.

The station followed her as and watched her endure rehab and kick her habit.

Erin's dad was proud.

"They're all you got," Bob McLyman said in 2001. "You brought them into this world - but don't give up on them."

But she had more to prove that she could make it. When Erin graduated, she joined the Air Force, then got out, married the love of her life and joined the Army.

She volunteered to go to Iraq and shipped-out last August.

That was the last time Erin's friends saw her.

"Sad she's not here anymore," said Thomas Evans. "Kind of totally still in shock about... you know."

Erin's husband Brian says she was killed by an enemy mortar attack inside her base. Her body is on the way home to Eugene. But her memories still inspire.

"I would go home with her little stories of her background in life and I would talk to my daughter about it," Johnson said. "I wish I had another chance to say goodbye."

Erin was awarded the National Defense service medal and the Global War on Terror service medal. She served with the 3rd Stryker Brigade.