Any reporter anywhere will tell you the hardest part of his or her job is knocking on the door of the family of a victim. In Los Angeles, such knocks often follow gang shootings, armed robberies or traffic accidents on the freeways. For almost a decade, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has added to it all. On one such morning, I knocked on Emmy Aprahamian’s door, only hours after military personnel had stopped by to give her the news. Emmy’s daughter, U.S. Army Spc. Carla Stewart had been killed in Iraq. I had attended funerals for Marines and soldiers before, but writing about Carla felt different. She was a woman still in a man’s world, and she had dreamed of serving her country for so long. The image above is of Carla’s father Edmond and brother Richard holding her photograph. I wish I would have known and written more about this soldier at the time. Here is part of her story (Daily News, 2007):
GLENDALE – She first felt the call when she was just 17 – the need to serve her country, the honor of wearing Army-issued fatigues.
But Carla Stewart didn’t realize her dream until she was 35, when she seized the last opportunity to enlist in the Army Reserves.
“She would say, `Mom, this uniform feels so right,”‘ Emmy Aprahamian said Tuesday, holding a photograph of a young woman proudly wearing the blue dress uniform of a private first class.
“She cared a lot for this country,” Aprahamian said, tears dripping from eyes reddened by grief. “She was too good for this world.”
On Sunday, Aprahamian was notified that her 37-year-old daughter – whose photograph adorns the walls and shelves of her Glendale home – had died while serving in Tallil, Iraq. Assigned to the 250th Transportation Company based in El Monte, Stewart was killed when her convoy vehicle overturned.
The Department of Defense says the incident is under investigation, but those words mean nothing to an anguished mother.
“How does this happen?” Aprahamian said. “She told me she would not be in combat. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”