Eric Thomas Caldwell – Corporal, United States Army

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
January 10, 2007

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Specialist Eric T. Caldwell, 22, of Salisbury, Maryland, died January 7, 2007, in Iraq of wounds sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information on this soldier, contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-9993.

Salisbury Soldier, Who Found Direction in Army, Is Killed

By Clarence Williams
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Thursday, January 11, 2007

Relatives of Army Specialist Eric T. Caldwell knew that he rode as a gunner on a Humvee, trying to clear roads southwest of Baghdad. But though he said the streets were more chaotic than he had imagined, he comforted them that he had plenty of body armor and would be safe.

Just last week, the 22-year-old had called home to Salisbury, Maryland, to say he would be flying to the area this weekend for at least a week's leave.

Three days later, the Maryland native died in Iraq after his Humvee unit was in a firefight with enemy forces, said Defense Department officials and family members.

Caldwell grew up with his twin sister and grandparents in Ellicott City, before moving briefly to Florida, then to Maryland's Eastern Shore. In high school, the twins moved to Gloucester, Virignia, to be with their mother.

Relatives remembered him as a teenager who lacked direction and never graduated from high school but who grew to be a trustworthy and kind man, who seemed to trust almost everyone he met. He was a good cook, they said, who loved the Wizards, Ravens and Orioles and roughhousing and wrestling with his teenage cousins.

Caldwell's uncle, Vince Cerniglia, said the family learned of his death Sunday as Cerniglia wrestled with his three boys, who had always roughhoused with Caldwell. The teenagers looked up to him as an older brother and depended on him to take them to the movies or buy them a submarine sandwich, he said.

“Eric was looking for some direction, some career in life,” said Cerniglia, who helped raise the twins as teenagers.

Caldwell found his direction in the military, first as a member of the Maryland National Guard, then when he was sent for active duty at Fort Hood, Tex. Caldwell, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade and 1st Cavalry Division, had wanted to become a mechanic and joined the service for training. But he found himself proud and committed to an Army career.

Growing up, Caldwell had heard military stories from his grandfather, Melvin Caldwell Sr., a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific theater in a B-25 bomber.

The grandson spent more than a year trying to become a soldier. Caldwell had a learning disability, but he spent two months studying to earn his graduate equivalency diploma and a few months more studying to pass written tests to enlist in the military, said another uncle, Melvin Caldwell.

“That's how dedicated he was. He wasn't going to give up,” Melvin Caldwell said.

When Eric Caldwell returned home from a boot camp in Missouri during Christmas 2003, the young soldier arrived at 4 a.m. but refused to shower or change out of his uniform because he wanted to wear his colors at Mass.

“That's how proud he was to be a soldier,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell is to be buried at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

January 11, 2007:

American flags flew high along Gloucester's Main Street today.

“They're all out for him,” said Vicky Gunn, who runs Gunn's Body Shop.

The county's in mourning, she said.

Gunn didn't know Army Specialist Eric Thomas Caldwell, a 22-year-old from Gloucester who was killed in Iraq Sunday after his unit was attacked by small arms fire. But she grew up in Gloucester with his mother, Vanessa Caldwell, formerly Vanessa Robins.

“Everybody who grew up around here knew the Robins,” said Cathy Tomlinson of Main Street's Tomlinson Exterminating Services Inc.

Vanessa Caldwell was one of 12 children.

Her father, Earl Robins, owned a small gas station in the heart of Main Street and later worked for years as the service manager at the local Chevrolet car dealership.

One of his sons now works at the dealership. Other children opened small businesses of their own. A daughter-in-law has been involved with the high school for years. And over the years, with the 12 kids, the family has added spouses and nearly 30 grandchildren.

“It's going to be a packed memorial,” said Charlotte Tomlinson, also of the exterminating business, about the service scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. Caldwell will be buried at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Arlington National Cemetery.

And not just with family.

“It hits close to home,” said Charlotte Tomlinson, who made a special point to get a new flag pole this week to fly her flag. “Everybody's talking about it. Everybody wants to reach out to the family.”

A Salisbury, Maryland, soldier has died of injuries received in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Specialist Eric T. Caldwell, 22, died January 7, 2007 in Iraq of wounds sustained when his patrol encountered enemy small arms fire north of Baghdad, his uncle, Melvin Caldwell Jr. of Salisbury said.

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Eric Caldwell was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Relatives told the Hampton Roads Daily Press in Virginia that the soldier was scheduled to visit home for a two-week vacation on the weekend.

Melvin Caldwell told The (Salisbury) Daily Times he and his wife, Pamela, helped raise their nephew during his childhood years in Salisbury.

Eric Caldwell joined the Maryland National Guard in June 2003 and was assigned to the 121st Combat Engineer Battalion in Prince Frederick before enlisting in the Army in early 2005, his uncle said. He attended Gloucester High School near the Tidewater area of Virginia and schools in Marco Island, Florida, after attending Pinehurst Elementary School in Salisbury.

As a youngster, Caldwell was a member of Boy Scout Troop 185 at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Salisbury.

Survivors include his mother, Vanessa Caldwell of Gloucester, Virignia; his father, Brian Caldwell of Philadelphia; a twin sister, Andrea Caldwell, of New Orleans; a sister, Katie Caldwell, also of Philadelphia; and his paternal grandparents, Melvin and Naomi Caldwell of Salisbury.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Gloucester, The Daily Press reported. Caldwell will be buried Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

17 January 2007:

A former Marco Island man who attended Tommy Barfield Elementary and Manatee Middle School before moving with his family to Maryland was killed Jan. 7 while on patrol in Iraq.

Army Specialist Eric Thomas Caldwell, 22, and his platoon were on a mission clearing roadside bombs in northern Baghdad when Caldwell was shot, his father Brian Caldwell, 46, said in a telephone interview.

“They completed their mission and were on their way back to their unit camp,” Brian Caldwell said Tuesday. “They were hit by small arms fire. He was killed instantly, caught in the head.”

Eric Caldwell and his twin sister Andrea Caldwell lived on Marco Island for most of eight years, from the ages of 5 to 13, with their grandparents Melvin and Naomi Caldwell, Brian Caldwell said. Eric Caldwell had his first communion and was confirmed at San Marco Catholic Church, Brian Caldwell said.

“He loved Florida,” Brian Caldwell said. “He loved Marco Island. He lived right on the beach.”

After middle school Eric and Andrea Caldwell moved to Maryland and then to Gloucester, Va., their father said. In 2004, after graduating from high school, Eric Caldwell joined the National Guard. He joined the U.S. Army in 2006, Brian Caldwell said.

He was drawn to the military after hearing tales from his grandfather, Melvin Caldwell, who served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Brian Caldwell said. Eric Caldwell planned to move up the ranks and make the military his career, his father said.

“He was very convicted in his beliefs. He believed in the cause. He believed in democracy and freedom,” Brian Caldwell said. “We supported him. He believed in what he was doing. We loved him for the decision he made and we supported him.”

Eric Caldwell, a combat engineer, left for Kuwait on October 31, 2006, and was sent to Iraq the first week of November with the Fort Hood, Texas-based 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, his father said. He had been in Iraq for about 60 days when he was killed, and was scheduled to return home for a two-week leave on January 14, 2007.

Now, instead of spending two weeks with his son, Brian Caldwell is attending funeral services for him.

A memorial service was held for Eric Caldwell in Gloucester on Sunday, and he is scheduled to be buried at 1 p.m. today in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.

Brian Caldwell said his son liked to play video games, watch movies, read historically-based novels, and just hang out.

“He was very low key,” he said. “He was very humble and very down to earth, but full of life. When he walked into the room, everybody and everyone seemed to get bigger and brighter.”

The death has been very hard for the large Caldwell family, Brian Caldwell said.

“It’s made us realize how precious life is,” he said. “It’s been a great loss. He was well loved.”

Eric Caldwell told his father that the roads in Baghdad were extremely dangerous and full of garbage, Brian Caldwell said.

“He said what you see on TV doesn’t compare to reality,” Brian Caldwell said. “The reality of the situation is unimaginable.”

Brian Caldwell said he still supports the war in Iraq, but believes there needed to be more troops from the very beginning. He said that if the U.S. pulled out troops now, there would be an even bigger, more bloody war in the Middle East.

But to be successful, Brian Caldwell said, the people in Iraq are going to have to want to fight for their own freedom.

“Everybody is focused on why we’re there. That’s already done with,” he said. “Great victories come with great sacrifices and losses. … In my opinion, we can’t make the people want this. They have to want it for themselves.”

Army Gave Fallen Soldier A Focus, His Family Says

By Arianne Aryanpur
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Thursday, January 18, 2007

The mourners began gathering at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery shortly after noon yesterday, linking elbows and holding hands as uniformed troops lifted the coffin of Army Specialist Eric T. Caldwell from a black hearse.

Some mourners leaned on each other for support and others bowed their heads as the funeral procession slowly made its way to gravesite No. 8507. Family and friends surrounded Caldwell's coffin, shielding their eyes from the bright sun.


Caldwell, 22, of Salisbury, Maryland, died January 7, 2007, when his Humvee unit was struck by enemy fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and was the 296th person killed in the Iraq war to be buried at Arlington, cemetery officials said.

Yesterday's ceremony was steeped in military tradition. A chaplain delivered a Protestant service to those gathered, telling them that Caldwell “served proud.”

A three-shot volley was fired as uniformed troops saluted and a bugler played taps among rows of white headstones. Then six white-gloved soldiers meticulously folded the U.S. flag that draped Caldwell's coffin.

Flags were presented to Caldwell's sister, Andrea, and his mother, Vanessa. His father, Brian, accepted a flag too, his eyes never leaving the casket. He pulled the flag to his chest, bowed his head and began weeping.

The ceremony seemed a fitting way to remember a young man who had found direction in the Army, family members said.

Caldwell and his sister grew up with their grandparents, and he heard war stories from his grandfather, Melvin Caldwell Sr., a World War II veteran.

He lived in Ellicott City, Florida and Salisbury before moving during high school to Gloucester, Virginia, where his mother lived, family members said.

Caldwell never graduated from high school, but his uncle, Melvin Caldwell, told The Washington Post that he spent several months studying to earn a general equivalency diploma and to pass the tests required to enlist in the military.

“That's how dedicated he was. He wasn't going to give up,” Caldwell told The Post shortly after his nephew's death.

After the funeral, mourners gathered by their cars, sharing stories and wiping away tears.

An online memory book overflowed with condolences yesterday, many from people who had never met Caldwell but respected his sacrifice nonetheless.

“Thank God for young men like Eric — his passion for country and willingness to serve should be recognized and honored by all Americans,” wrote Brandy Stevens of Gloucester. “He has paid the ultimate price for all of us, who often take our freedom in this world for granted.”

Kim Rowan, of Gloucester, said she knew Caldwell and his “wonderful” family.

“My heart goes out to you all. Everyone is so proud of Eric. For who he is and the man he became,” she wrote.

Army honor guard carries the casket of Army Specialist Eric Thomas Caldwell in Arlington National Cemetery, January 17, 2007
Family members, right, attend the funeral of Army Specialist Eric Thomas Caldwell, in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday January 17, 2007
Brian Caldwell, father of Army Specialist Eric Thomas Caldwell, holds a flag to his chest during his son's funeral in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Brian Caldwell, right, father of Army Specialist Eric Thomas Caldwell, holds a flag to his chest with other member's of his family during his son's funeral in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, January 17, 2007


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 06/17/1984
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/07/2007

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