Melissa J. Hobart had a tough start, dropping out of high school and getting her GED, but by the time she graduated as a medic in the Army, she was at the top of her class, friends and family said.
"We came a long way from nothing and we made it pretty far," said Gary Hobart, her brother. "She joined the service so her daughter wouldn't have to face the hardships we faced as younger persons."
The 22-year-old from Ladson, S.C., collapsed while on guard duty and died June 6 in Baghdad. She was based at Fort Hood.
Hobart was spunky and energetic: "She was always on the go and you couldn't keep up with her," said her mother, Constance Hobart.
The solider played soccer, basketball, baseball and the flute and loved to dance and read, her mother said. The two used to fight over who would get first crack at each new Stephen King book.
Other survivors include Gary Hobart, her father, and her 3-year-old daughter, Alexis McCabe.
Published in The Washington Post on Jan. 28, 2005.