STUTTGART, Germany - Almost one year to the day after her death, Cpl. Karen Clifton was honored by her unit, the 554th Military Police Company, as Building 2914 on Panzer Kaserne here was renamed Clifton Hall.
Clifton, 22, was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, June 21, 2007, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle and exploded.
The young Soldier and her team had just escorted two fire trucks to the scene where a Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle had hit a buried improvised explosive device.
"We pulled off and picked up a security position to lock down one side of the perimeter when we were hit," said 1st Lt. Ari Fisher, 1st Platoon leader, who was also in the vehicle.
The rocket went straight through the driver's side window - where Clifton sat - and detonated. Shrapnel ripped through the vehicle, killing Clifton and wounding two other Soldiers. Fisher was the only uninjured person in the vehicle.
During a 15-month deployment that ended Sept. 19, 2007, Clifton was the only fatality for the platoon. Earlier in the year, the company's 2nd Platoon lost three Soldiers.
Now assigned to the 709th MP Battalion in GrafenwAfAPhr, Fisher spoke at the June 20 dedication ceremony and remembered Clifton as an enthusiastic Soldier who was rugged and free-spirited. Nicknamed "Kid Rock" among her platoon mates, Clifton was known for pranks such as wearing fake teeth and oversized sunglasses, or taking another Soldier's stuffed animal and branding it with the Ugly Platoon's symbol.
"But despite her off-duty playtime antics, she was a go-to, aggressive, competent and professional battle-hardened warrior," Fisher said.
"Karen deserves to be remembered for her outstanding military service, devotion to her country and love for her fellow comrades," said Capt. Renato Vieira, commander of the 554th MP Co. "Honor, courage and selfless service were values that Karen held dear to her heart, and it showed."
At the ceremony, two wreaths were laid courtesy of Soldiers from the 554th MP Co. and VFW Stuttgart Post 10810. A plaque affixed to Building 2914 and a memorial rock garden were also unveiled. Spc. Kara Yost, who deployed with Clifton, recited a poem she wrote for Clifton.
Pvt. Emily Romero, who transferred from Stuttgart to Fort Bliss, Texas, in May, returned to pay tribute to Clifton, saying: "She was a really good friend to me."
"We were roommates for almost the whole deployment," Romero recalled. "I would come back to the room, throw my gear down and then I'd peek over the divider and stare at her until she would look up at me. She'd yell at me that I was freaking her out, and I'd just laugh about it."
They played three-on-three basketball together for the first time the day before Clifton died. "We both had fun," Romero said. "We even won one of the games. We agreed to play basketball again after we got off mission the next day. I played a week later; it wasn't the same."
Romero wasn't the only one who traveled from the States for the dedication. Clifton's grandmother, Carol Ann Clifton, and aunt, Kathy Brelsfoard, both from Decatur, Ill., attended the ceremony.
Carol Ann, who raised Clifton after her parents divorced, said she and the younger Clifton "were always very close."
When learning that Clifton wanted to join the Army, Carol Ann tried to change her mind. "Karen said, 'No, Grandma. I'm going. I want to be in the Army. This is what I want,'" the elder Clifton remembers. "I said, 'OK, honey; then you be the best.'"
"She thought of this as family," Carol Ann continued. "She loved doing whatever it was she had to do. She gave it her all."
"We appreciate how they honored her," Clifton's grandmother added. "We can't find the words to say how much we appreciate what they did and how much she was loved. I'm sure she's looking down and smiling. She would have been so proud," she said.