A Cecil County family is grieving over the loss of a loved one in Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billie Jean Grinder will be laid to rest today in Tennessee with full military honors.
The 25-year-old from Gallatin, Tenn., is the daughter of Roxanne Bowe Davenport, who grew up in Chesapeake City. Her uncles, Butch and Curtis Bowe, aunt Karen Bowe, great-aunt Becky Bowe and more than a dozen cousins are still in the area.
Grinder was a helicopter pilot with the Tennessee Army National Guard.
"She was just an awesome, awesome girl," Davenport said Tuesday.
The engine in Grinder's Kiowa Warrior failed and the helicopter crashed en route to Balad Airbase, north of Baghdad, on Feb. 21.
Grinder was scheduled to come home in two-and-a-half weeks, her mother said. A member of 1/230th Air Cavalry, she was in the same unit as her husband and her stepfather.
"Her husband was already home," Davenport said.
Also a helicopter pilot, Samuel Grinder was stateside for more training.
"Her dad escorted her home," Davenport said.
Davenport, who also is a member of the National Guard, said she never expected her daughter to enlist. But that's what happened a few months after she graduated from high school in 2002.
"We were very surprised," she said. "If you knew Billie Jean she was a girly-girl, but she was also the biggest tomboy ever."
It was that tomboy spirit that reminded Davenport of the last time Grinder was in Cecil County about a dozen years ago.
"We were visiting my aunt and uncle who raised me," she said. "I always told her about sledding on Canal Hill." It's a steep hill going down to the water. Grinder grew up hearing about her mother flying down the snow-covered hill on a sled, but having to bail out last minute.
"We'd have to jump off or we'd end up in the canal," she said. Although the visit was in the summer, Davenport said the sledding was just as sweet.
"The grass was so tall. She loved it," she said. "She told her step-daughters (that) when she got back (from Iraq) they would come sledding down this hill because it was so awesome."
Grinder was a paralegal in the guard when she met her future husband.
"He was a helicopter pilot so she decided she wanted to be a pilot," she said. Grinder attended warrant officer school and later flight school.
"She was going to fly the Black Hawks when they found out the unit was being deployed," Davenport said. Instead of the big transport choppers, Grinder was assigned the smaller gunship Kiowa Warrior.
"She called it her little sports car in the sky," her mother said.
Today, that sky will be filled with pink, Grinder's favorite color.
"After the military honors we are going to let go thousands of pink heart-shaped balloons," Davenport said.