Soldier raised in Salisbury dies in Iraq

A soldier who was raised in Salisbury has died of injuries suffered in Iraq, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Spc. Eric T. Caldwell, 22, died Sunday in Iraq after his patrol encountered enemy small-arms fire north of Baghdad, said his uncle, Melvin "M.J." Caldwell Jr. of Salisbury, immediate past president of the Wicomico County Bar Association and a Republican candidate who narrowly lost a bid for the County Council last year.

Specialist Caldwell was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, the Defense Department said in announcing his death.

Relatives told the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., that the soldier was scheduled to visit home for a two-week vacation this weekend.

"Eric was raised by his grandparents in the Salisbury area," said Brad Bellacicco, a friend of the family who is executive director of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. "At 15, he moved to Virginia with his mother, then at 18 moved in with his aunt and uncle."

Specialist Caldwell joined the Maryland National Guard in June 2003 and was assigned to the 121st Combat Engineer Battalion in Prince Frederick.

He lived with Melvin and Pamela Caldwell in Salisbury until enlisting in the Army in early 2005, his uncle said.

Specialist Caldwell worked hard to overcome learning disabilities to realize his ambition, said his uncle.

"His life was the United States Army," he said. "He wanted to become a soldier like his grandfather, who served in World War II. He loved the structure of the Army, and the guys he served with became like extended family. He was a very focused young man, once he realized the direction he wanted to go."

Specialist Caldwell had attended Gloucester High School near the Tidewater area of Virginia and schools in Marco Island, Fla., after attending Pinehurst Elementary School in Salisbury.

As a youngster, he was a member of Boy Scout Troop 185 at St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Salisbury. Survivors also include his mother, Vanessa Caldwell of Gloucester, Va.; his father, Brian Caldwell of Philadelphia; two sisters, his twin Andrea Caldwell of New Orleans and Katie Caldwell of Philadelphia; and his paternal grandparents, Melvin and Naomi Caldwell of Salisbury.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church in Gloucester, the Daily Press reported. Another service was being planned for Monday at St. Francis DeSales Church in Salisbury.

He will be buried Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

From staff and wire reports