FLORA - Maj. Gen. Catherine S. Lutz, the first female general in Mississippi National Guard history, was always looking after her troops. Lutz died Jan. 16 after battling brain cancer. She was 58.

Madison's John Rounsaville served as a captain in the Air National Guard and was assigned to Lutz.

"She held the highest rank of any female in the history of the Mississippi National Guard, but she never allowed her gender to distinguish her rank," Rounsaville said. "Her leadership, mentorship and passion for the well-being of the military is what distinguished her. She looked after her troops.

"It's a misconception that serving in the military always involves carrying a weapon," he continued. "As a healthcare professional, General Lutz committed her life and career to taking care of military members, both in the civilian world and the military."

Lutz was born on Aug. 11, 1955, to Margie and Hugh Smith. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1977 with a degree in nursing and later received her master of nursing administration in 1985. In 1998, she received her doctorate of education from the University of Mississippi.

She joined the military and was commissioned as a flight nurse in 1982. In December 2011, she was promoted to commander of the Guard, a position Rounsaville said she held with distinction.

"Throughout her illness, she continued her military duties and was a presence at events - always positive, in good spirits, and full of humor," Rounsaville said. "She battled her cancer just like she commanded - no excuses, just get the job done."

For 30 years, Lutz served troops in another capacity as a clinical nurse, supervisor, educator and compliance officer with the Veterans Administration Hospital.

She commanded the Air Expeditionary Medical Unit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and Medical Group of the Mississippi Air National Guard.

She was a graduate of Air Force Flight Nurse School, Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College and Air War College. She received many honors for her service to our country, including the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

Gov. Phil Bryant ordered that state flags fly at half-staff on Jan. 20 in honor of Lutz and her service.

"Mississippi has lost a brave and accomplished soldier by the passing of Maj. Gen. Cathy Lutz," Bryant said in a release. "Deborah and I ask that Mississippians join us in praying for the Lutz family during this difficult time, and we ask God's blessing on all military personnel and their families."

Lutz is survived by her husband of 27 years, Major Gen. (Retired) William Lutz of Flora, a former Madison County Chancery Judge; parents, Margie Summerlin Jaap of Jackson and Hugh Smith of Brandon; siblings Hugh Smith of Harrisville, Louie Smith (Jan) of Jackson, Tony Smith of Jackson, and Joanne Jaap of Brandon and several nieces and a nephew.

Services were held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Gluckstadt on Monday.

A military ceremony followed at Canton City Cemetery.

The family requests memorial donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.