HERMANN, MO, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, C CO, 1ST BN, 5TH MAR, (2-BCT, 2D MAR DIV), 1ST MAR DIV, CAMP PENDLETON, CA AR RAMADI, IRAQ 06/16/2005
A Hermann, Missouri family is grieving the loss of a loved one instead of celebrating this Father’s Day. 26-year-old Lance Corporal Erik Heldt was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed.
Erik was the youngest of three boys. He was a husband and father of a young daughter. Matt Heldt said, “My little brother and Crystal’s husband was an extremely brave man.”
Erik joined the military two years ago. He chose the Marine Corp over the Army because he believed he could make a bigger difference. Matt said, “He thought protecting our way of life was definitely the right thing to do. He paid the ultimate price for us to go to church on Sunday morning or to go grocery shopping after work.”
Erik and another marine, 36-year-old Captain John Maloney from Chickopee, Massachusetts were both killed Thursday. They were conducting combat operations when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb near ar Ramadi in Iraq.
The town of Hermann is also grieving the loss. Erik is the first from Hermann to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. His name will eventually be added to the town’s honor roll where his grandfather is already listed as a World War II veteran.
Erik’s former teammates would like to see the new high school football field named in his honor. Erik played when the team became number two in the state. Former teammate Darin Schutt said, “He never worried about himself. He always worried about his teammates, whether they were hurt, whether they were okay. You didn’t know if he was hurt because he wasn’t going to tell you.”
Former teammate Mike Winkelmann said, “He would want everybody to gain strength from this and don’t take anything for granted.” That is something military families already know. Brother Matt said, “I have no regrets. When my brother left I squeezed him as hard as I could and I told him I loved him.”
Erik Heldt wanted to become a diesel mechanic and a football coach after his military service. His wife is not only grieving his death, but the deaths of her great aunt and cousin. They both passed away Sunday from natural causes.
Erik R. Heldt grew up on a farm, and the aspiring football coach managed to stay down-to-earth in Iraq.
“He was carefree but professional at the same time,” Lance Corporal Matthew C. Trigo wrote in a letter to Heldt’s wife. “He possessed a unique courage that allowed him to be just the way he wanted to be, self-expressive and nonchalant.”
He is survived by his wife, Crystal, and a daughter, Taylor Purdy.