Hundreds of people packed a funeral service Monday for an Air Force Academy major killed in an Afghanistan helicopter crash.
Eulogists said Maj. Phyllis J. Pelky was a patriot who left a teaching job in New Mexico to enlist in the Air Force after 9/11. She also was described as a loving mother of two and a devoted wife who balanced a life of service with family.
"She gave the ultimate sacrifice, her life, for all those she loved," said chaplain Capt. Don Romero, who led the service. "One thing is certain: She saw life that way, with every moment a precious opportunity to serve others."
Pelky died in Kabul on Oct. 11 in the crash of a British chopper. Born in Evergreen Park, Ill., Pelky attended the University of New Mexico and taught in Rio Rancho, N.M. She was commissioned in the Air Force in 2004.
She was posthumously awarded the Meritorius Service Medal for her work in Afghanistan, which included advising on personnel operations and organizing monthly Afghan air force women's forums, according to the citation.
The 45-year-old taught German at the academy and served as an aide-de-camp to Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, academy superintendent, before her deployment.
Johnson and two other generals spoke during Pelky's service.
"My days were long, but hers were longer, and no matter how good or bad her day had been, Phyllis gave 100 percent of herself," Johnson said.
Johnson said the major won't be forgotten.
"She will always remain part of our story," Johnson said. "It will be our duty to keep her story alive."
Pelky was buried at the Air Force Academy service after the funeral. Along with her husband, Dave, and two sons, Pelky is survived by six siblings.
Academy dean Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost said Pelky was a strong teacher and mentor for cadets.
"She made a lasting impact on those with whom she worked, the faculty and cadets alike," Armacost said. "The stories of Phyllis and her amazing contributions to our faculty and our academy will endure."
The third eulogist was Brig. Gen. Steven Basham, who was Pelky's boss at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. He said as a new lieutenant in 2004, Pelky showed maturity and wisdom that took superiors by surprise.
"Phyllis Pelky was the mentor -- she was the one who provided the best guidance," Basham said. "She took care of us on a daily basis."
Pelky was one of five people killed in the crash, which has been deemed an accident by British authorities.
The five represented three nations of the NATO coalition working to help the struggling Afghan government battle Taliban insurgents. Two Royal Air Force airmen, two American airmen and a French contractor died.
The other American in the incident was Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse, 38, of Kalamazoo, Mich., who went to Afghanistan from Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
At the academy, Pelky will be remembered for giving her all to her family, her students and her nation, Romero said.
"That's what love looks like and that's the best of the Air Force spirit," Romero said.