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Army Spc. Erik W. Hayes

Died November 29, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

24, of Cascade, Md.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Vilseck, Germany; killed Nov. 29 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle in Al Miqdadiyah, Iraq.

Carroll County soldier killed in Iraq roadside bombing

Associated Press

HARNEY, Md. — A soldier from Cascade who grew up in Frederick and Carroll counties was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, his father said Thursday.

Spc. Erik Hayes, 24, died Nov. 29 in Miqdadiyah, Iraq, when an improvised bomb detonated near his military vehicle, the Department of Defense said Thursday. Hayes was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, based out of Vilseck, Germany.

Hayes was born in Gettysburg, Pa., and grew up in Thurmont and Harney, where his father, Douglas Hayes, still lives. He graduated in 1998 from the Living Word Academy in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

After high school Erik had jobs that ranged from electrical work to working on a dairy farm, Douglas Hayes said.

“Erik could do anything,” Hayes said. “He was artistic. He could draw like you couldn’t believe. He was a good son.”

He joined the Army in 2001 to get a college education and had been stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., as well as in Germany, Bosnia and Kosovo before he was deployed to Iraq.

Hayes’ younger son, Bradley, 20, was injured in a car accident two years ago and is cared for at a Hagerstown medical facility. Erik was devastated by his brother’s injury, his father said.

“Erik loved him with all his heart,” Douglas Hayes said.

The military will fly Erik Hayes’ body from Germany to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Friday, his father said. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Erik Hayes’ mother, Deborah Reckley, declined to comment on her son’s death.

Fallen soldier receives flag-waving farewell

THURMONT, Md. — A soldier from western Maryland who was killed in Iraq “has honored his country,” his tearful father said Wednesday at a flag-waving funeral in a country church.

Spc. Erik W. Hayes, 24, had hoped to come home and help care for his quadriplegic, brain-damaged brother, Bradley, who was hurt in a car crash two years ago, Douglas Hayes said. Yet he said his son’s sacrifice left him “proud beyond words.”

“He has honored his country. He has honored his family. He has honored his friends,” Douglas Hayes said. “When Erik was born, in Gettysburg, Pa., he was born an American. On Nov. 29, in Iraq, when Erik died, he died an American.”

Hayes was killed in Miqdadiyah when an improvised bomb detonated near his military vehicle, the Department of Defense said. The military lists his hometown as Cascade although Hayes grew up in Harney, where his father lives, and Thurmont, where his mother and stepfather, Deborah and David Reckley, live.

More than 200 people jammed the Evangelical Bible Church near Thurmont for a nearly two-hour, open-casket service that combined elements of a funeral, a Christian revival meeting and a patriotic rally. Everyone stood as a choir sang “Proud To Be An American.” Some people waved small U.S. flags while others held their hands up to heaven.

Hayes joined the Army at age 20, five days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in hopes of using his veteran’s benefits to attend college, family members said. He died about two weeks after his 24th birthday with just a few months left to serve.

Speakers described him as quiet, considerate and steadfast in his faith and his devotion to family. Slow-speaking and deliberate, he frustrated even his pastor, the Rev. Wade Sandridge, with his insistence on driving at or below the speed limit, the pastor said.

During a summer that Hayes lived with the Sandridges, “he always treated me with such respect,” said Donna Sandridge, the pastor’s wife. “He’d always say, ‘Sister Donna, is there anything I can do for you?”’

The Sandridge’s daughter, Rachel Olson, said she thought of Hayes as her twin, and she regretted not having spoken or written to him in the weeks before he died.

“I wanted to thank him for what he was doing and I wanted to tell him I loved him and was praying for him — but I didn’t,” she said. “If there’s someone you love, tell them. If there’s something you want to do, do it. If there’s someone you need to forgive, forgive them. Nothing else matters, and it’s never too late until you’re gone.”

Hayes is the 19th military member from Maryland killed in the war in Iraq.

— Associated Press

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