JONESBORO, AR--Honoring the man and mourning the loss. Region 8 responds after learning news that a member of the 875th Engineer Battalion has lost his life serving his country in Iraq.
23 year-old Trumann native Specialist Erich Smallwood died Saturday near Balad, Iraq after an IED exploded near his vehicle.
Smallwood was with the 875th based in Marked Tree. At the time of his death he was working on missions with the Alpha Company based in Jonesboro. He's being remembered for a lifetime of achievements that he accomplished in just a short amount of a time.
"First of all as a hero because that is what he is, a true hero," said Specialist Kevin Robert.
Robert, who is currently home on furlough, knows that first hand. He and Smallwood are close friends, who often rode together on missions in Iraq.
"That was always a comfort to me when he was in the vehicle with me, because I knew I had someone with me in the vehicle I could completely trust," said Robert.
Robert says Smallwood had a way of always bringing up the spirits of those he was serving with prior to a big mission.
"Before we would go out Erich would tell us he loved us, and when Erich told someone he loved them, you felt it," said Robert.
According to Robert, Smallwood lead by example and when he had input on a big decision, the rest of the platoon listened.
"Erich was one of the bravest and one of the most intelligent in the whole platoon," said Robert.
Ultimately Robert says members of the 875th will remember Smallwood as strong, compassionate and someone who put his needs second to those around him.
"My life and the people's lives he has touched will never be the same," said Robert.
The loss is particularly hard on Robert, who has grown close to Smallwood.
"I loved him and I do love him and it will be difficult to go on without him, but we'll go on because that's what he would have wanted," said Robert.