An athlete, a fan of Irish and patriotic country music, a wicked video gamer and rugby player, Eric loved his country and his Catholic faith. He was 20 years old when he died. Eric was born at Madigan Army hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington. His father, Eric Herzberg, was an Army officer at the time.
When Eric was four years old, the family moved to Greenville, South Carolina. Eric was involved in gymnastics, soccer, and baseball as a young child. He also enjoyed tormenting his sister Katie, who was two years older than him. His brother Matthew was born two years after Eric. Matthew and Eric were best friends for their entire life.
All three kids enjoyed jumping on a little trampoline setup in Katie’s room. They especially enjoyed pushing each other off and seeing who could make the most consecutive jumps from the trampoline to Katie’s bed and back. It was during this time that Eric announced his patriotic intentions because he loved to sing “You’re a Grand Ole Flag” while jumping on the trampoline.When Eric was 9 years old, the family moved to Nova Scotia, Canada. This was just before the 1996 Olympics. Eric again showed his patriotic fervor when he would become incensed at television commercials extolling the virtues of various Canadian Olympic teams at the expense of the United States teams.
In June of 2000, when Eric was 14, the family moved to Severna Park, Maryland. It was this point that Eric discovered a love of paintball. He and Matthew would play as much as possible. Both boys became very skilled at not getting hit and shooting their father multiple times, sometimes even when he was on the same team as them.
During his freshman year at Severna Park high school, Eric decided to try out for the football team. This was challenging enough, especially for being the new kid in town. The fact that Eric had NEVER played football probably didn’t even enter his mind. He played Junior Varsity that year on defense. Even though he was not as experienced as other players, Eric gave 110% on every play and never quit.The next year, as a sophomore, Eric decided to try out for wrestling. His wrestling coach, Paul Joyce, who now mentors Matthew, remembered Eric’s manners and even keel from working with him on the junior varsity wrestling and football squads.
“He was a coach’s dream,” Mr. Joyce said. “I never had to yell at him for lack of effort. He might not have been one of the better players, but it was not from lack of effort.”
The coach said Eric was a great kid, “never absent, never cursing, and was never in trouble.”
And the young man’s manners were impeccable, he said, not just when in front of adults: “He was that kind of kid 365 days a year, perfectly mannered and did whatever you needed.”
Looking for something to keep them occupied after football season, Matthew and Eric decided to try rugby. Both boys were relatively small compared to the other players but they were ferocious hitters. They both loved the physical challenge of the competition. I also think they enjoyed being covered with mud. Matthew and Eric also played together on the Severna Park 16 and under soccer team for the next two years. This team was virtually unbeatable during this time. Soccer was probably Eric’s best sport. He earned a nickname of “The Iron Curtain” from his teammates because of his defensive play. Both he and Matthew competed with each other and with other players over the internet in various video games during this time as well.
When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Eric started to discuss joining the military in earnest. He wanted to make a difference and help prevent these attacks from happening again. His early intentions were to join the Army and become an Airborne Ranger. He wanted to be part of the elite. He soon changed his mind about the Army because “the training wasn’t as intense as the Marines”. He signed an early intent letter and began working out with other future Marines every Saturday during the end of his junior year in high school. He continued to work out every Saturday in his senior year. His Roman Catholic faith also guided his decision to join the Marines and helped him convince his mother of the surety of his vocation. He viewed his desire to serve in the military as a “calling”.
After high school graduation, Eric joined the Marine Corps. He announced his intention to “go to Iraq and be in the front lines so I can make a difference”. He successfully completed boot camp in October of 2005 and the School of Infantry in March of 2006. Eric was assigned to his regular unit as a machine gunner with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force headquartered in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Eric deployed to Iraq on July 14, 2006. The official U.S. Department of Defense statement said he was killed October 21, 2006, “while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province.” A Web site tracking casualties noted that he was a victim of “hostile fire.”
Eric is survived by his mother, Gina Barnhurst, father Eric Herzberg, sister Katie and brother Matthew. Katie graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania in 2007 with a degree in biology. She is currently attending the Ross School of Veterinary Medicine in the West Indies. Matthew recently graduated from Severna Park high school. He is attending Towson University near Baltimore studying psychology.