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Monocacy River Bridge Dedicated

Leeanne Leary

(4/25) Nearly thirteen years ago on November 29, 2004, Army SPC Erik W. Hayes was killed in action when an Improvised Explosive Device detonated in Al Miqdadiyah, Iraq.

This past month he was honored on the border of Frederick and Carroll Counties when the Monocacy River Bridge was dedicated in his name.

On Saturday April 15th friends, families, and local organizations gathered to honor the sixth soldier from Maryland to die in the War on Terror. The dedication was hosted and overseen by the Monocacy Valley VFW Memorial Post 6918 in conjunction with the Maryland State Highway Administration.

SPC Erik Hayes was born in Gettysburg, Pa., and grew up in Thurmont and Harney. He graduated high school in 1998 and held jobs ranging from electrical work to working on a dairy farm. Three years later, he joined the Army in pursuit of a college education and was stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga., Germany, Bosnia, and Kosovo before his first and final deployment to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Four of SPC Hayes’ comrades made the trip to speak at his dedication. They spoke about his humble nature, strong character, and his future goals and plans. SSG Tupaim spoke first about his time serving with Erik: "Erik is remembered for doing everything he was asked with honor and valor, without complaint, and with all the respect a man can give." He continued, "We loved him for his easy way of speaking, his thoughtfulness, and his wisdom that reached far beyond his 24 years. If he were here today, he would smile his slow smile and say, ‘you guys didn’t have to do all this,’ but indeed we do, we must."

SGT Daniel Hopson, Erik’s Section Leader in Iraq, spoke just before Erik’s parents. SGT Hopson was with Erik on the day of his death and on the truck with Erik when the IED detonated. He remembers sitting with Erik on his last day: "That day I sat on an Iraqi rooftop with Erik and I asked him if he could be anywhere in the world right then, where would he be. He responded that all he wanted to do was go home and take care of his brother." Brotherhood was key to Erik and he let everyone around him know, telling SGT Hopson that day that he too was his brother in arms. SGT Hopson finished, "I just want you all to know that we loved Erik, he was loved."

This bridge dedication was spearheaded by Army Veteran and State Delegate William Folden. As his first bill in office, Delegate Folden spoke about Erik and this dedication in comparison to his own son. Erik’s dedication bill originated through a trip that Folden took with his 10-year-old son.

"I want to make sure that Maryland is doing its part in honoring these heroes." He said, "This was not and is not a feel-good bill. This bill has meaning, this bill is about honoring them every day." Folden added about his own experience in the Army, "A lot of us just want to forget, honestly, but you can’t forget those who laid down the ultimate sacrifice at the altar of freedom."

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