Rest in peace Meredith!
BRYAN, Texas (AP) - Merideth Howard worked to gain the respect
of her colleagues and fit into a male-dominated job when she became
the city's first female firefighter more than 25 years ago.
Now her former colleagues are mourning the death of Howard, who
at 52 became the oldest female U.S. soldier killed in action since
military operations began in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Howard, a sergeant first class in the Army Reserve, and Staff
Sgt. Robert Paul, 43, of The Dalles, Ore., were killed near Kabul,
Afghanistan, when a car bomber slammed into their Humvee. It was
the deadliest suicide attack in the Afghan capital since the fall
of the Taliban after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"She joined the Army because she thought it was something she
should do," said David White, Howard's instructor at the Brayton
Fire School. "She was just one of those people who inspires you."
Howard, a Corpus Christi native who lived in Waukesha, Wis.,
graduated with a master's in marine resource management from Texas
A&M University in 1978. She joined the Bryan Fire Department that
year, working at Fire Station 1 as an engine driver for about 3½
Initially, some were apprehensive about her. But she fit in
within a short amount of time. She helped set up an onsite air
system allowing the department to fill its own respiration tanks,
said Bryan Fire Department Chief Mike Donoho.
"By doing a good job and gaining respect, it gave everyone else
a better chance. They had an easier road ahead of them because of
what she established," Donoho told the Bryan-College Station
Howard, who was a member of A&M's first women's tennis team,
became the second female to complete the eight-week recruit academy
at the Brayton Fire School in College Station.
"She was one tremendous firefighter," said White, her
instructor and now publisher of Industrial Fire World magazine.
"As a firefighter, it's always like, can you physically do the
job? You've got to carry the hoses and raise the ladder. You are
not going to find a frail, 100-pound person doing it, man or woman.
(Howard) could do it. She might not have had all the strength, but
determination made up for it."
Following her time in Bryan, Howard and her husband moved to
California. There, she worked as a fire protection specialist,
developing construction specifications and inspecting fire alarm
systems, sprinkler systems and fire pumps. She split her time
between Northern California and Wisconsin.
Howard joined the Army Reserve as a medical equipment repairer
in 1998. Last year, she was assigned to the 364th Civil Affairs
Brigade of Portland, Ore. as a civil affairs sergeant.
She was deployed in April to Afghanistan and worked rebuilding
roads, schools and other infrastructure.
Howard and Paul were assigned to the Army Reserve's 405th Civil
Affairs Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Howard's husband, Hugh Hvolboll, said his wife loved the ocean,
traveling and was passionate about firefighting and fire safety.
"Merideth was a loving, affectionate and outgoing wife," he
said in a statement. "She gave the shirt off her back to help each
and every friend she had. She is greatly missed by her family and
friends across the country."
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)