Aroutin Hagnazarian dreamed of joining the military since his boyhood days at Washington Elementary School. His mother wasn’t as thrilled with the idea, so when he graduated from Burbank High in 2010, he opted for the Army Reserves instead.
Hagnazarian was assigned to 307th Chemical Company, based in Bell, Calif., and quickly made an impression.
“When I see a soldier come in and I meet people for the first time, I know when we have a great soldier,” company commander 1st Lt. Gregory Nichols said. “Spec. Hagnazarian was one of those soldiers.”
He had standout qualities, even at the age of 18, Nichols said.
“When we went to the range he was, I believe, the only soldier that qualified expert on his weapon, which is just amazing,” Nichols said. “That, and he passed his [physical fitness] test with a high score. For a company commander, this is the kind of soldier I embrace.”
He enrolled in classes at Santa Monica Community College and continued to pursue his dream of transferring to fulltime military service. But on Aug. 16, the young reservist’s career was cut short when he was killed after his motorcycle collided with a car on Interstate 5 near Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank.
It was the second tragedy to strike his tight-knit group of friends this summer. In June, Hagnazarian’s Washington Elementary School classmate Timothy “TJ” Adams nearly bled to death after being hit by shrapnel while stationed in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan.
Adams — who recently received a Purple Heart and is in the process of recovering — recalled at Hagnazarian’s funeral service Thursday how they both planned out their futures in fatigues as children. They unsuccessfully approached their parents with early enlistment forms at 17.
“It sounded like fun,” Adams said of their military ambitions.
Hagnazarian was a bit of a daredevil, friends said, staging stunts that kept them in stitches.
“Everything he did was hilarious,” Adams said.
He was also extremely loyal, family and friends said.
“He was carefree with everything he did, but at the same time, he cared about everybody,” said Burbank High classmate Melisa Young. “He put you first, no matter what it was.”
Nothing can prepare a company commander to lose a soldier, Nichols said, nor to deliver the news to his comrades.
“I am so thankful to have had him in our company and he will always be in our minds, and we will always remember him as one of the 307th Chemical soldiers,” Nichols said.