O'Hara known as a hero

Friends, family remember soldier

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O'Hara Family/Courtesy

Eric O'Hara is pictured in his uniform in this undated photo. Services will be held Wednesday in Steamboat Springs.

— Bill Montag remembers his late stepson, Eric O'Hara, as "a true American hero."

In his two tours of duty with the 82nd Airborne Division, O'Hara led 80 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and was cited three times for bravery, Montag said.

"He would go under fire to pull his men out of harm's way," Montag said.

O'Hara negotiated with villagers to help bring peace, Montag said. His second tour of duty included daily patrols through the city of Tikrit.

"The greatest thing about Eric was that he came out of Iraq with incredibly deep faith," Montag said. "We know where he is now."

O'Hara, 24, died Thursday in Steamboat Springs after falling six stories off the roof of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel in a snow removal accident.

O'Hara had been discharged from the U.S. Army just a few weeks ago, was trying to move on with his life and had recently enrolled in college, close family friend Larry Lamb said.

Lamb fondly remembered his long talks with O'Hara, sharing Army stories. He remembered O'Hara as "tough and ambitious," and called his service in the Middle East courageous.

O'Hara had been living in Centennial since his discharge, but was in Steamboat Springs Thursday to help out with his brother-in-law's business, which is contracted to clear snow off roofs at the Grand. Just before 4 p.m., according to Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg, O'Hara and another worker were standing on a piece of ice that broke loose. O'Hara slid down the sloped roof and fell over the edge holding a safety rope, but was knocked off the rope by falling snow, Ryg said.

Montag remembered O'Hara as a passionate skier and talented athlete. O'Hara lettered in skiing at Steamboat Springs High School, where he graduated in 2002.

O'Hara's family has long been involved in local bull-riding events, and while in high school, the fearless teenager coined "the Eric dismount" - jumping straight off the front of the bull, Montag said.

"And he'd get run over every time," Montag said.

After his discharge, O'Hara enrolled in classes at Metropolitan State College of Denver using funds from the G.I. Bill. After a bit of a rebellious youth, Montag said, O'Hara dedicated himself to a better future and had dreams of being a stockbroker.

"He was so proud because he got an 84 on his big bio test on Wednesday," Montag said.

O'Hara was incredibly close to his four sisters and was a caring uncle to their children, Montag said.

"Eric was a positive person - he just lit up the room," Montag said. "The community has really lost something."

"He will be sorely missed," Lamb said. "He was a lot to a lot of people."

Montag said services will be held Wednesday in Steamboat. O'Hara will be buried Thursday at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Montag said.

Arrangements still are being finalized.

Comments

Steamboatsense 6 years, 5 months ago

A true American Hero. Our community should be very proud of this young man. It's shame we don't have more. God Bless.

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 5 months ago

RIP Eric.

It's too bad something so tragic has to happen to start using the word Hero. All our vets should be treated with respect while they are still alive.

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dundalk 6 years, 5 months ago

What an incredible young man. God Bless him and his family.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 5 months ago

CoNative, Your statement is sad but true! Thanks! I'm a vet. I knew Eric. Great kid! I grieve with the rest of the community with such a loss.

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LTD 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Eric, for your service. I never had the honor of knowing you well, but I was deeply saddened to hear of this tragedy. We knew you were a hero before you were gone. -LT D, USAF

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Hadleyburg_Press 6 years, 5 months ago

I grieve at the loss of Eric. We have lost a National asset and a Steamboat Springs favorite son. Thank you for your service and I also will take this opportunity again to thank all those who are serving or have served. You are not forgotten and I salute you.

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Jason Miller 6 years, 5 months ago

I never met this young man but all i can save is thank you and g-d bless.I have included this link.

http://officialredfridays.com/red_fridays.php

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80488mom 6 years, 5 months ago

Why is it this town never has a welcome home when these kids return. Would have been nice for him to know the gratitude and pride Steamboat had for him.

Seems to me all this town really concerns itself with are their olympians. Those are Steamboat's heros. If we had our priorities in perspective these young men who serve would have a hero's welcome when they come back.

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 5 months ago

The man deserves some recognition from our town......

I'm all ears mom. What's on your mind?

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 5 months ago

mom & native & all, The VFW on the 4th of July does things! War is not popular. Niether are the men and women who fight it. I give as much as I can for my fellow vets and support programs that work outside the VA, to help our troops. Good luck on what ever ideas you come up with. I'm sure they will be greatly needed and appreciated. Thanks for your thoughts!

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justathought 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, it would be nice to see something such as a front page photo reading "one of routt county's own returns", if the pilot doesn't see fit to do any more of a story, fine, at least the people will know and could plan something if they so desired. I'm sure the VFW would like to acknowledge a returning soldier.

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Chris Elliott 6 years, 5 months ago

One of the kindergarten classes and a 5th grade class at Strawberry Park made books thanking Eric, and three other soldiers for serving our country. They also had a little party where they sang patroitic songs and made gingerbread houses. Just because things don't always make the paper doesn't mean they don't happen! Hopefully Eric's book will make it to his family.

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cissyslim 6 years, 5 months ago

I just wanted to pass along our family's condolences to Eric's family. Our son, Sgt. Shane Patrick, served in Iraq w/ Eric on his last tour. They spent alot of time together at Fort Bragg, also. Shane talked about how they went to the beach together and had all good things to say. I had the pleasure of meeting Eric the year before they deployed. It was Shane's birthday and I had driven down from Pennsylvania and took Shane and a bunch of guys out to lunch. I remember how Eric was laughing and having a great time. It truly was an honor to have met him. He is a very special young man and an American Hero. He will truly be missed by everyone, my son included.

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