Staff Sgt. Eddison Hermond Jr. lived and died helping others.
Hundreds of mourners packed the Church at Severn Run in Severn Thursday morning to remember the Maryland Army National Guardsman’s selfless service. Two weeks ago, the 39-year-old Severn man died after being swept away as he attempted to rescue a woman during the historic flood in Elliott City.
“Eddie Hermond put his life at risk for someone he didn’t even know. Those who know him best say that this final act of heroism came at the end of a life which was full of brave and selfless acts,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told the crowd, which included family, friends and numerous service members, many of whom fought back tears or consoled one another during the service.
Hogan spoke of how Hermond had served his country and state, dedicating more than 10 years to the U.S. Air Force, and later to the Maryland National Guard, where he served as an engineer with the 244th Engineer Company and the training detachment at Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown.
“He spent the greater part of his life serving his country, his state and community,” Hogan said.
Hermond, he said, was trained to respond in natural disasters. He was among the guardsmen who responded to the unrest after Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore in 2015 and was on call when Ellicott City flooded in 2016.
When the historic mill town flooded again on May 27, Hermond was off duty, celebrating a friend’s birthday over dinner at an Ellicott City restaurant. He took it upon himself to try to save a woman as the flood waters rose, but as he attempted to rescue the woman, he was pulled away by the rushing water.
His body was found two days later in the Patapsco River, about a quarter-mile down from Frederick Road in Catonsville along River Road, Howard County police said.
Hermond was a well-known fixture in Howard County, working at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia and helping to open the Manor Hill Tavern in Ellicott City, Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman said.
“He was no stranger to our community,” said Kittleman, who got a laugh from the crowd when he asked why Hermond lived in Severn.
In the days since the flood, Kittleman said, he’s heard from many of Hermond’s friends and customers who spoke of “his welcoming smile, and his gentle kindness. Those who knew Eddie best said they were’t surprised by how he rushed to help,” Kittleman said.
“One friend described his actions as ‘the most Eddie thing ever.’ ”
Kittleman also spoke of Hermond’s kind nature, and held back tears as he quoted from Hermond’s last Facebook post just days before his death.
Of the forthcoming Memorial Day weekend, Hermond wrote: “Let’s get the hate out of our hearts. Focus on the positives and let’s all, for once, enjoy life as it’s meant to be enjoyed. Whatever your pleasure is ... just be happy. We’re free because people gave their lives for us to live this way.”
Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, the Maryland Army National Guard’s commander, said she struggled with how best to honor and preserve Hermond’s memory as a soldier who has such an impact on others.
She wanted to do something beyond the military awards, including a posthumous promotion from sergeant, not just for his family, but also for his fellow soldiers who might be deployed in foreign lands, that they could remember him by.
“I thought because Eddie shined so bright, he was a guiding light and many of our lives, I thought it would be fitting to name a star after him,” Singh said. She said a star has been registered under the name “Eddie H” in his memory.
“I wanted his star to shine bright and never fade,” Singh said.
Several of Hermond’s family and National Guard colleagues spoke at the funeral, describing his positive attitude and smile.
At the service, a video showed various smiling pictures of Hermond, many in which he was accompanied by fellow guardsman wearing helmets and riding in Humvees. Others showed him in costumes, including one where he and two other men wore sleeveless tuxedo shirts with bow ties; another showed him posing with two other friends, holding their hands like guns like the characters from the “Charlie’s Angels” movies. All showed his gentle smile.
Several family members struggled to find the words to express their grief. One aunt, who fought back tears as she spoke of all the memories with her nephew said, simply ended with a raised fist: “Eddie Strong.”
After the services, uniformed guardsmen carried Hermond’s casket, draped in an American flag, from the church.
The funeral procession, which included Humvees and veterans on motorcycles, passed families who waved American flags before they reached the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.
Hermond was buried with full military honors and service goers wept as “Taps” was played. Hermond’s sister, Alicia Armstrong, an airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, presented her mother with the American flag that was draped over her brother’s casket.
“I raised him as a single mother since he was seven years old,” said Cleola Thompson, Hermond’s mother. “It was hard work.”
She kissed her son’s casket one last time before it was carried away by the men he served with.
Before closing the ceremony, Mark Bailey, the director of Bailey Funeral Home and Cremation Service, had a request for the crowd of mourners.
“If you wouldn’t mind saying ‘Hooah’ from the bottom of your heart,” said Bailey, referring to the battle cry used by the U.S. Army and Air Force, “so that every single person here, in Crownsville, in the state of Maryland will know the sacrifice that [Hermond] made.”