Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, of Waldwick, N.J.

Sgt. Hernandez was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Dec. 4, 2007 in Bayji, Iraq, from wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Pvt. Dewayne L. White and Army Capt. Adam P. Snyder.

The Star Ledger -- Nearing the end of a four-year stint in the Army, Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez wanted nothing more than to pursue a career in law enforcement.

He was a decorated soldier, an accomplished marksman, a leader on and off the battlefield.

Yet his dream remained out of reach. Time and again, he was told no positions were available. Out of options, Hernandez re-enlisted in the Army earlier this year. In September, he arrived in Iraq for his second combat tour with the 101st Airborne Division.

On Tuesday, he died there, one of three soldiers killed when a roadside bomb ripped into their Humvee in Bayji, northwest of Baghdad.

Hernandez, 26, who grew up in West Milford, Passaic County, and most recently lived in the Bergen County community of Waldwick, was the 87th service member with ties to New Jersey killed in the war.

His mother, June Augusta, said that after her son shipped out, he received offers for two jobs that would have kept him home.

"They came too late," she said in a brief interview yesterday outside her Waldwick home. "Way too late."

Initially, the military seemed a natural career for Hernandez, a tall, strapping man who spoke often during his youth of becoming a soldier.

"Since he was a little kid, he played army with his friends," said his stepfather, John Augusta. "He just always wanted to be a soldier."

Hernandez joined the Army in 2003, and it wasn't long before he served his first tour of duty in Iraq, his stepfather said. Assigned to Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Hernandez more recently began to reconsider his options, and law enforcement seemed the right path.

Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez was killed in a non-combat related incident on 12/04/07.

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