In both life and death, Marilyn Gabbard was a first. She was the highest-ranking enlisted woman in the history of the Iowa National Guard, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports — and the first woman from there to die in combat.
But to her family and the thousands who packed a memorial service in her high school gym, the 46-year-old was also a wife, mother and grandmother.
"Everything about her was pride. I mean, my family loved her, the Guard loved her," says Ed Gabbard, Marilyn's husband.
Marilyn was "in country," as they say, only 26 days, but she'd already started "movie night" — a way to help officers and enlisted get to know each other.
"I've never quite met anybody that totally gave of themselves and really just didn't want any recognition for it," says Doyle Norris with the Iowa National Guard.
Ed and Marilyn met in the Guard, and for 18 years, they were inseparable. Even her deployment couldn't keep them apart. Despite the nine hours' time difference, they talked twice a day. But she woke him up only once: Saturday, January 20.
"She called me at 2:30, said 'I'm getting ready to board the helicopter. We're heading back to base. I'll call you when I get back," Ed says. "She never called, never called. And the next morning at 8 a.m., the news said there was a Black Hawk that went down on Saturday and all 12 people were dead. I knew it was Marilyn."
A lot of people say they love their spouses, but not a lot of people are able to say they were soul mates. "I was asked when I think life will get back to normal," Ed says. "It never will — not without her. Never ever."
Come spring, he vows he'll put the top down on Marilyn's beloved Mustang and take grandson Benjamin for a spin. But first, he has to find the right words to tell the 4-year old that his hero Grandma is not coming home.