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thedrifter
10-25-06, 07:40 AM
Marine's Conviction 'A Calling,' Family Says

By Raymond McCaffrey and Mary Otto
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 25, 2006; A13

When Lance Cpl. Eric W. Herzberg decided to join the Marines while a student at Severna Park High School, his first mission was to ease the concerns of his mother, Gina Barnhurst.

"Gina was anxious to talk him out of it," said Doug Barnhurst, Herzberg's uncle. "She was worried about it. She was worried that he didn't know what he was getting into. But he convinced her it was a calling."

Yesterday, three days after the 20-year-old infantryman died while conducting combat operations in Iraq's Anbar province, it was his mother who conveyed the meaning behind that calling.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our wonderful Eric, yet we are so incredibly proud of him. He was proud to be a Marine and to serve his country, which he loved dearly. He was a happy, quiet young man with a deep compassion for others and a deep faith in God. . . . "

The words were written on a piece of yellow paper held by Herzberg's uncle, the color of the ribbon hung outside the family's Severna Park home during his tour.

On his mother's car was a more succinct message in the form of two bumper stickers: "My Son Is A US Marine," and "My Son Defends Our Freedom."

Herzberg was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He had served in Iraq since July.

Herzberg became the ninth service member from the region to die in the conflict since the beginning of September. His death came a month and a day after that of another 20-year-old from Severna Park. Army Pvt. Eric Kavanagh died Sept. 20 in an explosion.

Family members described Herzberg as having a burning sense of patriotism, even when the family lived in Canada for several years before moving to Severna Park.

"He was very proud and very adamant about being an American . . . which is one of the reasons he joined," his uncle said.

Herzberg, a middle child with an older sister and younger brother, was described as a "terrific athlete": a wrestler and a rugby and soccer player.

Herzberg was "deeply spiritual," said his maternal grandfather, William Barnhurst, and was raised Roman Catholic. That faith guided his decision to join the Marines and helped him convince his mother of the surety of his vocation.

"Mom, I'm so happy," he told his mother by phone from boot camp at Paris Island, S.C., from which he graduated last October. "This is what I want to do."

Herzberg's uncle said he went to Iraq on July 14 and was due to return in February.

He called his mother regularly -- she carried a cellphone at all times -- and his last e-mail to her was a week ago Monday. His mother was visiting her daughter at college in Pennsylvania when the Marines came to tell her that her son was dead.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

Ellie