JONESBORO, AR -- The family of Specialist Erich Smallwood of the 875th is in mourning. The 23 year old soldier from Trumann was deployed in Iraq. He was killed Saturday night when an explosive device detonated near his humvee.
Although this is a sad time for this family, they told us they want to spend this time celebrating the person they loved. Specialist Erich Smallwood was yes, a soldier on the battlefield, but also a family man here at home.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we don't have to live like the people in Iraq and worry about driving our kids to school or worry about I.E.D.'s on the road you know. He did his job and he did it well," says Jon Redman, Erich's Brother-in-Law.
Redman says remembering the kind of person Erich was seems to soften the blow as they mourn.
"He was a dynamic person. He was the kind of guy that lived his life to have fun. He loved his family, his immediate family. His JT, who was with him in Iraq, his sister, who I'm married to, Terah and his niece Taylor. That's who he lived his life for," says Redman.
A life that was cut short. Erich was just home for a 2 week leave and had only been back in Iraq for a week before he was killed.
"While he was home, he mentioned to a couple people that the reason he was there was to make sure that his sister and his niece didn't have to live like those people live over there and he was willing to give his life for that," says Redman.
A life for Erich that although ended tragically, is now defined by what he leaves behind.
"He's not here with us, but he is in all of our memories you know. We have numerous pictures of Erich, but those pictures are nothing in comparison to what we have in our minds and our memories about him," says Redman.
It's a picture we all have etched in our minds. A military official arriving at the family's doorsteps to bear the bad news. Jon tried to describe that moment for their family.
"Both of them being there, you know it could've been either one. It's hard to describe. I just can't describe that feeling. I just hope it never happens again. Erich was the first one with the 875th to die and I hope he's the last one," adds Redman.
The family was there Tuesday at the Memphis Airport to pick up JT, Erich's brother, who was also serving in Iraq. Before he left, he was given the option of whether to return, and the family said that he decided to be released from active duty and will not be returning to the war.