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Memories of big-hearted soldier bring smiles to grieving comrades

By Amy Schlesing

This article was published May 30, 2007 at 6:00 a.m.

Handout photo of Sgt. Erich Smallwood of Truman during training last year at Fort McCoy, Wis., prior to his deployment to Iraq.

— Back at Fort McCoy, Wis., 10 months ago, before Arkansas' 875th Engineer Battalion tasted the reality of war, Spc. Erich Smallwood was just meeting his new platoon.

It didn't take long before Smallwood's easy manner and smile attracted friends. He was a man who even on his darkest day had a knack for lightening the days of others.

On Saturday, the first day of the Memorial Day weekend, soldiers huddled and cried together as news spread that Smallwood, 23, of Trumann had been killed - marking the first wartime death for the Jonesboro-based 875th.

And even then, brief smiles accompanied grief as memories of "Smalls" surfaced despite the soldiers' tears.

For more information see today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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