Eric William Herzberg
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
Here For Eric's Memorial Website:
NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lance Corporal Eric W. Herzberg, 20, of Severna Park, Maryland, died October 21, 2006, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
For further information about this release the media can contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at (910) 451-9033.
Marine Corps Lance Corporal Eric W. Herzberg, a 2005 graduate of Severna Park High School, was killed in action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, on Saturday, the second war casualty from the community in the past two months.
An athlete, a fan of Irish and patriotic country music, a wicked video gamer and rugby player, he was said to love his country and his Catholic faith. He was 20 years old.
Corporal Herzberg's body has already returned to Dover Air Force Base. Following services at St. Bernadette's Church in Severn, he'll be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
His mother, Gina Barnhurst, along with his older sister Katie and younger brother Matthew, have been visited by relatives and a steady stream of friends bearing condolences at their home in Severna Park. His father, Eric F. Herzberg, lives in Laurel.
"We are a very private family," Ms. Barnhurst's sister, and the fallen Marine's aunt, Bernadette Martin said. But reading from a prepared statement, she said: "We are deeply saddened by our loss of our wonderful Eric, yet we are so incredibly proud of him. He was proud to be a Marine and to serve his country which he loved dearly.
"He was a happy, quiet young man, with a deep compassion for others and a deep faith in God. While we grieve our loss we celebrate his life and the joy and laughter he brought into our lives."
Her voice cracked as she continued.
"We are so proud of him ... but so sad."
Corporal Herzberg joined the Marine Corps after graduation. After leaving boot camp last October, he was deployed to Iraq on July 14, 2006.
He was a machine gunner with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force headquartered in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,
The official U.S. Department of Defense statement said he was killed Oct. 21 "while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province." A Web site tracking casualties noted that he was a victim of "hostile fire."
Corporal Herzberg is believed to be the sixth soldier with local ties to die in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past three years, and the 91st American soldier killed in Iraq this month. The next-highest number of fatalities was recorded a year ago this month, also the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
A total of 158 Marines in the division have died in Iraq since March 29, 2005, according to the most recent data available from the Marine Corps.
Since the start of the war, 2,801 U.S. service members have died in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count.
Last month, Army Private Eric Kavanagh, also from Severna Park, was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He had attended Folger McKinsey Elementary, Severna Park Middle School and Chesapeake High School.
Born and raised in Olympia, Washington, Corporal Herzberg had lived in South Carolina, Nova Scotia and Ontario, before coming to Severna Park in 2000.
He wrestled one year at Severna Park High School and worked at Big Vanilla Fitness Club in Arnold.
His wrestling coach, Paul Joyce, who now mentors Cpl. Herzberg's brother, Matt, remembers the slain Marine's manners and even keel from working with him on the junior varsity wrestling and football squads.
"He was a coach's dream," Mr. Joyce said. "I never had to yell at him for lack of effort. He might not have been one of the better players, but it was not from lack of effort."
The coach said Corporal Herzberg was a great kid, "never absent, never cursing, never being in trouble."
And the young man's manners were impeccable, he said, not just when in front of adults: "He was that kind of kid 365 days a year, perfectly mannered and did whatever you needed."
For that he credited the young man's mother.
"She did a great job," the coach said, explaining that he had both brothers in the same class. "I don't ever remember a bad word or attitude out of them, ever."
Coach Joyce said Corporal Herzberg was determined to become a Marine, recalling how he asked students in their senior year what they planned to do.
"He looked me right in the eye and said, 'I am going to be a Marine.' "
News reports said his mother tried to talk him out of it. "Gina was anxious to talk him out of it," his uncle, Doug Barnhurst, told The Washington Post. "She was worried about it. She was worried that he didn't know what he was getting into. But he convinced her it was a calling."
His Roman Catholic faith guided his decision to join the Marines and helped him convince his mother of the surety of his vocation, said his maternal grandfather, William Barnhurst.
"Mom, I'm so happy," he told his mother by phone from boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina, his uncle said. "This is what I want to do."
Gary Bulkley's son, Matt, was one of Corporal Herzberg's best friends.
"There was a group of them, maybe 10 or 12, who were always over here," Mr. Bulkley said. "They set up four or five TVs and every Friday and Saturday during the year, and all summer, they were here. Eric was one of those terrific kids. That group was really close."
Mr. Bulkley said he, too, tried to talk the young man out of joining the Marines right out of school.
"I said maybe he should wait, at least see if your enthusiasm is consistent," he said. "But he wanted to be a Marine in the worst way.
"When my son called to tell me, it was heart-wrenching. I was so sad."
Matt Bulkley, reached at his Longwood University dorm last night, said the group was really close.
"We were brothers," he said. "We saw each other every day. We were like family - we were all there for each other."
He added that all his friends know people who are going into the military, but "we never thought it would be him. We could not picture this happening to him."
Another of his band of "brothers," Chris Larkin, who attends Anne Arundel Community College and will transfer to UMBC next year, said simply, "He was just the best friend a guy could have."
Now that close-knit group of friends is coming home from colleges across the country for services this weekend.
"Every one of us is coming home to be there for him and his family," Matt Bulkley said.
They'll join the slain Marine's family and other friends to say goodbye. Together, they'll partake in the family's invitation noted in the simple statement released to the public:
"Please join us as we pray for all of the brave men and women still serving our country in harm's way, and for their families.
"And join us as we pray for the peace which
will let them all come home."
Marine Drew Pride From Duty
The family and friends of Lance Corporal Eric W. Herzberg gathered to say goodbye to him yesterday in a long, languid caravan that wound through Arlington National Cemetery, their sedans, minivans and motorcycles led by a black hearse carrying the body of the 20-year-old Marine.
Herzberg, of Severna Park, was killed in Iraq's Anbar province October 21, 2006, three months after his arrival. He was the 270th person killed supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Herzberg's mother, Gina Barnhurst, said the ceremony to honor her son was "beautiful," a hero's tribute on a warm, brilliant autumn day. His older sister, Katie Herzberg, stood by his coffin and recited from an Irish blessing: "Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die."
After the Marine honor guard played taps and fired a three-volley salute, Barnhurst received a folded flag in honor of her son, then leaned her head against his coffin and wept.
"He was just a beautiful person," Barnhurst said after the ceremony. "He was fun, he was sensitive. And the thing I hate the most is that he's not going to be a daddy. He was really great with kids."
From the moment her son went overseas, Barnhurst worried about him. Herzberg called her on her cellphone to reassure her whenever possible. But a few weeks before his death, the calls stopped coming, replaced by the occasional hurried e-mail to relay his safety. Though her son did not say so, Barnhurst could sense he was working in increasingly dangerous places.
"It was bad. I know it was bad. They were going through hell," she said.
Before Herzberg could call again, Barnhurst said, he was shot through the neck while on patrol.
Family members said Herzberg was a deeply spiritual person and a fervent patriot who was recruited to join the military in high school. After graduating from Severna Park High School in June 2005, he went through boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina. He graduated October 28, 2005, almost exactly one year ago.
Herzberg returned home and helped with local recruitment efforts before continuing his training in the Mojave Desert. He came home from that experience brimming with confidence, his aunt Bernadette Martin said.
"When he came back from infantry training, he was tan, his muscles were big and he had a new Celtic symbol tattoo," said Martin, who also lives in Severna Park. "He was in charge of his world, and he was so proud of himself.
"We'll just miss him so much," she said. "It was so hard to go there today and say goodbye to him. He gave everything to our country; he loved his country. He was so proud to be a Marine, so he deserved the honor he got today."
Martin said that her nephew's death transcended political tensions about the war. "Regardless of your politics, everyone can pray for peace," she said.
Herzberg's mother also said she wanted her
son to be remembered as "a peacekeeper." When she attends Mass at St. Bernadette
Parish in Severna Park, she always whispers something to herself, something
Eric liked to say: "Go forth in peace, love deeply, laugh often and live."
This band of brothers did not wear the uniform of their fallen comrade.
They wore dark suits like the other mourners who packed into St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Severn, Maryland, yesterday to say goodbye to Lance Corporal Eric W. Herzberg.
Bonded by tribulations and joys of high school life, forged in adolescent doubt and bravado, they came together from colleges and jobs across the country. They stood together at the altar to make their peace as a team.
Today they gathered again to lay him to rest among the rows of marble monuments to the nation’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery.
“Eric was more than a friend, he was a brother,” they said. He was one who stood by his friends, teammates, family and faith with the same sense of duty that moved him to become a Marine right after graduating from Severna Park High School in 2005.
Corporal Herzberg, a squad machine gunner, was killed in action October 21, 2006, in Iraq’s insurgent-infested Al Anbar Province, from which so many reports bearing the worst news have been coming.
After the Mass — attended by a few hundred friends, relatives and fellow Marines in dress blues — the band of brothers stood again for the media gaggle of television cameras and microphones thrust at their young, clean-shaven faces. And again they spoke as one.
Individuals spoke up, surely. But when prodded to identify themselves they politely declined, twice, saying, “It is about Eric, not us.”
Their friend was undoubtedly proud of them, as they are of him. A few are following his example by joining the service — one at the Naval Academy, another in boot camp at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where Corporal Herzberg was forged into a Marine last fall before being dispatched to Iraq in July.
They bore their brother, draped in Old Glory, past a phalanx of crisply saluting Marines and into the sanctuary Corporal Herzberg and his family called home.
The throng stood to sing “All Are Welcome Here,” with the refrain “let us put an end to fear and danger,” as his coffin was brought before the altar.
The Marines quietly marched to their pews, standing until all three rows were filled in before turning crisply on command and being seated with a hushed “At ease.”
The Mass was filled with music, hymns and featured voices.
Friends stood to read scripture — lessons, mostly.
From Romans: “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction , persevere in prayer ... Have regard for each other, do not repay evil with evil ... live at peace.”
And Ecclesiastes: “A time to love, and a time to hate, a time for war, and a time for peace.”
His Severna Park wrestling coach, Paul Joyce, stood to praise Corporal Herzberg. “You have heard of young athletes that you need to mold, who need to be shown, shown the right way,” he said. “Eric was not someone who needed molding. Eric showed us.”
He noted the modern trend toward self-help books and classes. “People like Eric Herzberg give us all the inspiration we need.”
His pastor, Father Domenic Cieri, reflected on the young man he knew as a reverent servant of his God.
“When I was in the seminary there was a book that taught how to preside (in a congregation). It was called ‘Strong, Loving and Wise,’ ” he said. “Those who know Eric know he certainly lived up to that, strong, loving and wise. A loving friend ... a strong silent type.”
And a patriot, even at a young age, according to a story related to the pastor by his father, Eric F. Herzberg:
“There he was, 2 years old, jumping on a trampoline and singing, ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag.’ He wanted everyone to know how good this country is.”
That love of country made him want to serve after September 11. He resolved to become a Marine.
Father Cieri said, however, that his gung-ho approach gave way, as it did for many in the country, to doubts about the war in Iraq. But his sense of duty never wavered.
The pastor wasn’t sure he should share the story with those attending the fallen Marine’s funeral service, but he said the young man’s mother encouraged him to do so.
“Just before he left for Iraq he came home, to be with family and get ready,” he said. “After Mass he asked for a blessing. We talked, but he said he wanted to talk a little bit more.”
The young Marine told his pastor that he and a few of his friends “had changed their minds about our effort in Iraq.”
He said he no longer believed in the war in Iraq, and he wanted to know what to do.
The 20-year-old’s pastor said he was flustered.
“I thought, you know exactly what to do, what you’re going to do,” Father Cieri said. “Then I told him, ‘Eric, we love you. Do your duty.’ ” He did.
Corporal Herzberg’s grieving mother stood to give thanks to all who had come to her family in their immediate hour of need, but also to address the larger questions brought forth by grieving in all wars.
“I am able to speak because Eric is holding me up, asking me to, while bathed in the arms of Jesus,” Gina Barnhurst said.
“We are all crying here today, but those tears must not be wasted,” she said. “They must cleanse our minds and our hearts and lead us to a clear vision of God ... Allah ... Yahweh, a higher power, or whatever deity you call your creator.”
Then she made a simple plea.
“We can all do our part to keep peace in our families, our hearts, and our world. Let’s get our precious men and women home so no other families have to endure this pain.”
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kent, also a former Marine, sat quietly among the mourners and stood in the background as the crowd mulled around outside the church. He and others watched Corporal Herzberg’s band of brothers huddle together.
“I come simply to show respect ... to honor him and his family for his extraordinary life and their extraordinary loss,” Mr. Gilchrest said.
The Marine’s congressman struggled for words to express what he felt at this ceremony and too many others he has attended.
When Ms. Barnhurst learned that her son was going into the Marines, she started a group at the church. The Peace Keepers meet every Wednesday night to pray for peace, to support one another and all those serving.
“She is just an inspiration, and her son was just like her,” said Ann McDonald, a pastoral associate at the parish.
After the service yesterday, mourners gathered for a meal at the Elks Club up the road. Some laughter was heard as memories were swapped in table conversation.
Ms. Barnhurst, making her way between tables,
said quietly, “We have to get the word
out to get those boys home. Something good has got to come out of this.”
HERZBERG, ERIC WILLIAM
Posted: 25 October 2006 Updated: 1 November 2006 Updated: 2 November 2006 Updated: 13 November 2006 Updatd: 18 November 2006 Updated: 30 January 2007 Updated: 4 February 2007 Updated: 14 September 2007 Updated: 10 October 2008 Updated: 17 April 2010
Photo Courtesy of Eileen Horan, April 2010
Photos Courtesy of Holly, February 2007
Photos Courtesy of Holly, November 2006