Princess C. Samuels wanted to see the world.
The 22-year-old enlisted in the Army after she graduated in 2003 from Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Prince George's County.
"We just wanted to see the world and go to school and just get out of Maryland," said Senior Airman Jacqueline "Nikki" Ellis in an interview from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. The two lived together like sisters during high school.
"We saw so many people that just stayed in there and never do anything else," she said.
On Wednesday, Sergeant Samuels was one of two soldiers killed in an attack in Taji, Iraq.
She was part of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Sergeant Samuels left for Iraq - her first deployment - in late February or early March, her family said. Airman Ellis said she also spent a few weeks in Afghanistan.
"She was a very vibrant and very happy girl," said Sergeant Samuels' aunt, Kathy Smith. "She's always been very smart, very intelligent. She was sergeant at 21 - that says a lot about her."
She was an imagery specialist in military intelligence, said Airman Ellis.
Airman Ellis said her friend was determined to enter military intelligence and turned down an offer from the Air Force when that branch could not specify what position she would receive.
Her mother said she had been accepted to art school but decided to put it off. "She said she wasn't really ready to start doing academics," said her mother, Anika Lawal of Waldorf.
At 5-feet-2 and about 100 pounds, she had to get a waiver because of her weight, Airman Ellis said.
Sergeant Samuels played soccer and was a cheerleader in high school, said her family members.
A gifted artist, Sergeant Samuels also enjoyed fashion and drawing, particularly flowers, said her relatives and her former principal, Helena Nobles-Jones.
"She had a perspective in art that superceded what one would normally expect from a student," Ms. Nobles-Jones said. "Her inner spirit was captured on canvas."
Ms. Lawal said her daughter had drawn her own tattoos. On one arm, she had a bird of paradise, with her mother's name; on the other, she had a baby iguana, with the name of her brother, Jubril, 7.
Ms. Lawal said her daughter loved animals, particularly dogs.
Sergeant Samuels had a white poodle she named Skylar. She was such a fan of the color pink that she dyed the dog's ears and tail pink, her mother said.
She also bought a Ford Mustang. "It was blue when she got it, but it didn't stay blue long," Ms. Lawal said.
Her daughter had it custom-painted purplish-pink, with wide stripes on the hood.
On Thursday, people started posting comments on Sergeant Samuels' MySpace page, lamenting the loss of her life. Some had changed their profile name to include "R.I.P. Princess."
A group on Facebook.com honoring the sergeant's memory had 174 members last night, many of them classmates from Charles Herbert Flowers High School.
"When I was down and out, Princess took me in," Airman Ellis said. "There's not a lot of people who would do that for somebody. She took me and made me a part of her family.
"We lived like sisters. For her to do that for me, it meant the world. It was definitely a blessing."
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but she will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, her family said.