Sunday, September 02, 2007

Erick M. Foster dies 'of wounds sufferedwhen insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations'

Erick M. Foster grew up dreaming about the military, from a childhood filled with G.I. Joes to ROTC training at Duquesne University.

To Foster, a Franklin Park native who climbed his way to the rank of Army captain over a seven-year career, military service represented a higher ideal and a higher calling.

"Just patriotism -- duty, honor and country," said his mother, Barbara Foster, 57, of Franklin Park. "He just wanted to serve his country."

Foster died serving his country Wednesday when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, the Department of Defense said Thursday. He was 29.

Foster, the oldest of three children, joined the Army in May 2000, soon after earning a business degree from Duquesne University. He served his first tour in Iraq in 2004-05, and left for another tour of duty in November, his mother said. When President Bush and military officials began a troop surge this year, Foster's four-month tour was extended to 12 to 15 months.

"He said he was going to serve his company," his mother said. "I don't think you would say anybody was excited about going over. He didn't fight it. He said that's what he was assigned to do, and he was going to do the best job he could at it."

The statement was emblematic of Foster's attitude and determination -- traits his father, Robert Foster, 60, said made him "the best of the best."

"He did his very best, whatever he did," Barbara Foster said.

Peers from North Allegheny High School, from which Foster graduated in 1996, and the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division used similar words to describe him.

"He was a really nice, straight-up guy (and) the military was definitely going to be a way of life for him," said Carrie Lerch, 29, an Army veteran and high school classmate of Foster's who lives in Maryland. "I knew he was really going places."

"Foster was a respected and proven combat leader whose love for his men supplied him daily with motivation," Capt. John Hartsock, a close friend of Foster's, said in a statement. "(He was) a loving son and a good man."

Foster commanded a company of 120 soldiers, his parents said. He had received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and a host of other honors, an 82nd Airborne official said.

He is survived by his parents, Robert and Barbara; his sister, Abby, who attends Penn State University; and his sister, Elizabeth Werkheiser, of South Kirkwood, Mo., military officials said.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete yesterday. Foster's unit plans to hold a memorial service in Iraq.

Foster's mother said a service would be planned through Huff Chapel in Franklin, Venango County. Foster will be buried at a family plot in Oil City.

Foster was the 303rd soldier from Pennsylvania to die in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a list maintained by the Department of Defense.

From the Tribune Review