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'He would give you the shirt off his back': National Guardsman killed in 2018 Ellicott City flood to be honored

The Maryland National Guardsman who died after trying to rescue a woman during the historic flooding in Ellicott City last month, was remembered for his service in life, and in the incident that caused his death.

It was not a pleasant first encounter.

Sgt. Shawn Gates was annoyed that some of his officers were seemingly looked over for promotions. So in 2010, Gates called an office to set the record straight. Sgt. Eddison A. Hermond Jr. answered the phone.

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Podcast: After two floods in three years, Ellicott City reckons with its future

“I was a bit arrogant and did not come off right,” Gates said. “He put me in my place. And he kind of hung up on me.”

Though their initial interaction was rocky, the relationship flourished over time and they became great friends. They spent hours reflecting on life

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“[Hermond] was someone I could sit, talk and laugh with,” Gates said. “He was a silent leader. He didn't have to say much, but people knew what he was about.”

Hermond, 39, of Severn, was killed during last year’s flood that devastated historic Ellicott City, causing millions in damage.

Staff Sgt. Eddison Hermond Jr. “put his life at risk for someone he didn’t even know,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said before a packed room of hundreds of mourners, including many military service members, during funeral services at the Church at Severn Run in Severn.

He died trying to rescue someone.

When the May 27 flood hit, Hermond, a Maryland Army National Guardsman, was off duty. He decided to help anyway. He was swept away by rushing water as he attempted to rescue a woman. His body was found two days later in the Patapsco River about a quarter-mile down from Frederick Road in Catonsville, Howard County police said.

An event commemorating the lives of Hermond, Elkridge native Capt. John F. Graziano and Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon M. Kent will occur at 10 a.m. Memorial Day at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Circle of the Immortals, 200 East Padonia Road in Timonium.

Graziano, 28, died Nov. 13 when his T-38C Talon jet trainer crashed at Laughlin Air Force base in Texas, where he was stationed. Kent, 35, died Jan. 16 in a blast set off by a suicide bomber in northern Syria. A Navy cryptologist Stationed at Fort Meade, she was the first female Navy service member killed in the fight against ISIS.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and state Sen. Chris West are scheduled to give memorial addresses.

Hermond spent more than 10 years in the U.S. Air Force and then served as an engineer with the Maryland National Guard’s 244th Engineer Company and the training detachment at Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown.

The intense and deadly flooding that has twice ravaged the historic district in two years is not unique to Ellicott City, officials say.

“If he went through the scenario 1,000 times over, he would’ve done it same way,” Gates said of Hermond. “That's just the kind of guy he was. He would give you the shirt off his back.”

He recalled an incident a few weeks before Hermond’s death when they saw a deer stuck in a fence. When the pair was alerted, “within the blink of an eye, he grabbed tools and hammers to get the deer out of the fence.”

“When the deer was freed, it seemed thankful,” Gates said. “Even something simple as an animal, he was willing to help.”

Gates was in the hospital when he first learned his friend was missing. The first thing he did was go to Hermond’s family and stayed by their side until after the funeral last year. Gates remains in contact with them.

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“I wish I was with him that day,” Gates said. “Maybe we could’ve come up with a plan. Two heads are better than one.”

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this article.

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