Army Specialist Carla J. Stewart, 37, died in Tallil, Iraq Sunday, Jan. 28, when the vehicle she was traveling in rolled over.
Stewart was a former La Cañada High School student. Her family used to live in La Cañada where she also attended a private elementary school. .
"She spent most of her high school years there, then we moved to Glendale," Stewart's mother, Emmy Aprahamian, said.
Stewart took ballet in the area and was very passionate about everything she attempted, her mother recalled. At 17, she and a friend went to sign up for the military. For some reason they didn't, but it was never far from her heart, Aprahamian said.
She went on to a career in mechanical drafting but eventually turned back to the military.
"She said, 'I have to do this,'" Aprahamian said.
Stewart joined the U.S Army just before her 35th birthday. She was assigned to the 250th Transportation Company, based in El Monte.
Aprahamian wasn't certain of her daughter's reasons for joining the military but supported her in everything she did.
"If I did not support her, or her father did not support, it wouldn't matter. She would have done it [enlisted anyway]," she said. "But she needed our blessing. In every picture she sent me [in her uniform] she was smiling," Aprahamian said.
And, smiling and happy is how she remembers her daughter today.
"She loved animals, she loved life, she was a ballerina and she was a soldier," Aprahamian said. She remembers the last time she spoke to her daughter; in fact some of the conversation is still on her answering machine.
"She called me from Frankfurt, Germany in the middle of the night, around 2 a.m.," she said. "We had a very long conversation. She hoped that the second half of her tour would go faster."
Stewart was on leave and loved the change of scenery"She was thrilled to see flowers and the green of Frankfurt," Aprahamian said.
Originally Stewart was scheduled to return stateside in March. However, just two days before Aprahamian received the call of her daughters death, an Army sergeant called and told her that her daughter's service might be extended until June or even September. Aprahamian was just getting used to that news when she received the word that her daughter had died.
"When something like this happens, they say a parent forgets all about the bad times [with their child] and only remembers the good, but that wasn't the case," Aprahamian said. "I never had an argument with Carla. We had the most wonderful relationship. She was my best friend. I could tell her anything and she could tell me anything."
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement that said, "Specialist Stewart will be forever remember for her brave and selfless service to her country."
It is that selfless quality that comforts Aprahamian.
"She was such an unselfish person … she always helped others," Aprahamian said. Then she paused, reflecting on her daughter's life. "She was proud to be a soldier but she was still a child, she had a beautiful soul."
Stewart is survived by her mother, father Edmond Babayan and brother Richard Babyan.