By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
Casey Casanova loved to sing and dance and play the drums growing up in McComb, Miss.
"She had a beautiful voice," her grandmother told the Laurel Leader-Call.
Casanova, 22, attended Southwest Mississippi Community College on a music scholarship and sang and played the steel drums in a stage band.
"Her favorite song was anything country," her mother told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. "I called her my dancing cowgirl."
Casanova shocked her mom in 2006 when she announced she was joining the Marines.
"I asked her, 'Why would you do this?'" her mother said, according to the McComb Enterprise-Journal. "She told me, 'I am young and there is nothing here for me. I want to do something with my life.'"
Casanova went through boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina and was assigned to Camp Pendelton in California.
"She changed a lot," her mother told the Enterprise-Journal. "She used to be a bubbly, giggly little girl. When she got through, she was a fighter."
Marine Lance Cpl. Casanova shipped out to Iraq on Feb. 14 as a field radio operator. Although women are barred from front-line combat, Casanova was in the thick of things from the outset.
"She did not tell me that every night she went out she was in danger of losing her life," her mother told WLBT.
On May 2, Casanova was on patrol in western Anbar province when a roadside bomb tore through the Humvee in which she was riding. Casanova and three other Marines were killed instantly.
"The voice of an angel is gone," her grandmother told the Leader-Call.
Casey Casanova was the 97th U.S. servicewoman to die in Iraq. Sixty of them, Casanova included, have been killed by hostile fire.
1. Marine Cpl. Miguel Guzman, 21, of Norwalk, Calif.
2. Army Spc. Alex Gonzalez, 21, of Mission, Texas.
3. Army Pfc. Aaron Ward, 19, of San Jacinto, Calif.
4. Army Spc. Jeremy Gullett, 22, of Greenup, Ky.
5. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Roberts, 25, of Farmington, N.M.
6. Army Sgt. Isaac Palomarez, 26, of Loveland, Colo.
7. Army Spc. Mary Jaenichen, 20, of Temecula, Calif.
8. Army Pfc. Ara Deysie, 18, of Parker, Ariz.
9. Army Spc. Joseph Ford, 23, of Knox, Ind.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.fieldnotes.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com/. The tribute gallery can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22802019/.