Army Medic Woods Remembered for Willingness to Help
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
US Army medic Eric Paul Woods was killed earlier this month in northern Iraq. His family says he had a passion for helping others. From Omaha, Nebraska, Avishay Artsy has this remembrance.
AVISHAY ARTSY reporting:
Dozens of tiny American flags line the street in Urbandale, Iowa, where Eric Paul Woods grew up and where his parents, Charles and Jan Woods, still live. In front of their two-story red brick home, a banner reads: With Honor and Courage, at Home With His Lord.
According to his family here, Eric Woods was active from the day he entered the world. At nine months old, they nicknamed him Houdini for his ability to get out of any crib or car seat. Soon enough, he was climbing up trees and over the chain-link fence in the back yard. At five, Woods as taking part in wrestling meets around the state and was in a bowling league at six.
Sports weren't everything to him, though. His mother has multiple sclerosis and his father suffered from polio, so Woods would help them around the house. And on summer nights when the neighborhood kids would run around pretending to shoot each other, Woods' mother, Jan, would notice how he refused to leave any kid behind.
Ms. JAN WOODS (Eric's Mother): He would sit with people if they were hurt or couldn't, you know, do everything with the rest of the kids could do. He would sit back with them and just spend time with them instead of leaving them in the dirt.
ARTSY: In high school, Woods was focused more on wrestling and baseball than on academics, and friends describe him as a classic smart aleck. The week after graduating from Urbandale High School, he met Jamie Brooks, a freshman at Iowa State. He proposed to her that Halloween and they married the next spring on their first anniversary as a couple. In 2000, they moved to Omaha where Woods started a business installing window blinds. Two years later, they had a son, Eric Scott.
Meanwhile, Woods decided he wanted to focus his life on helping others, so he made up his mind to enlist as an Army medic with the goal of becoming a physician's assistant. His younger sister Amy says the decision took their family by surprise.
AMY (Eric Sister): Eric's the type of person where he doesn't respond well to authority. And so, we all kind of laughed that he was going into the Army where he wouldn't be the one in charge all the time, that he would have to listen to authority.
ARTSY: On March 8th of this year, he was deployed to Iraq. At first, he letters home sounded upbeat about the progress of the war, and he asked his mother to send soccer balls and candy to give to Iraqi children. But in the last months of his life, he saw things take a turn for the worse. He told his mother to stop sending toys since the children had become afraid to approach the Americans.
In his last phone call home, Woods said he was looking forward to a two-week leave at the end of the summer for his younger brother's wedding. The next morning, Woods stopped to help an injured soldier on the side of a road near Tal Afar. His Humvee hit an improvised explosive device, or IED, and he was killed. Woods' body arrived Thursday night and his wife Jamie was there to receive him. She's been explaining to her three-year-old son, Eric, that his father won't ever be coming home.
Mrs. JAMIE WOODS (Eric's Wife): What do you know about daddy?
ERIC SCOTT (Eric's Son): He's dead.
Mrs. WOODS: Yup. And what does that mean?
SCOTT: A bad man hurt him.
Mrs. WOODS: That's right. And now what?
SCOTT: Now he won't come back.
ARTSY: A funeral for Eric Paul Woods is scheduled to be held today at the Johnston Free Evangelical Church in Johnston, Iowa.
For NPR News, I'm Avishay Artsy in Omaha, Nebraska.
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