For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Rob Douglas: Thank you, Eric

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— A week ago, this community lost one of its best.

We lost a good man.

We lost a brave soldier.

We lost Eric O'Hara.

How do we say "thank you" to a young man gone too early?

How do we say 'thank you' to a young man who stepped up when so many didn't?

How do we say "thank you" to a young man who answered the call of his country?

As we know, Eric died in a fall at the Steamboat Grand. But it is not how he died that is important. It is how he lived. And while Eric's stepfather, Bill Montag, notes Eric was rebellious early on, it's not the start of the journey that matters most - it's the finish. Eric finished with honor.

Eric volunteered to join the Army in the wake of Sept. 11. He served with the famed paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. During combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Eric added to the fame.

As reported Wednesday in the Steamboat Today, one of Eric's commanders, Maj. Charles Claffey, lauded Eric for his leadership, saying, "Although he went on missions very frequently, it was never enough for him. Eric loved being a paratrooper, and he loved serving his country."

The major, describing the courage Eric demonstrated, said, "The gunner is personally responsible for the safety of everyone in the vehicle and sits exposed on the top. He would be right beside me through hell or high water. I am without a doubt here only because of his actions in Iraq."

The major's words, combined with those of family, friends and fellow soldiers, are a testament to the character Eric achieved.

If service to country is the true measure of a man, Eric lived a full life.

If service to country is the true measure of a man, Eric was a man's man.

Consider this: Thursday, two events happened. One man made international news while the other man is known more quietly by a grieving community.

The first man bombed a U.S. Armed Forces recruiting station in Times Square. The second man was laid to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

The first man is a faceless coward who struck in the dark in order to shield his identity. The second man is an American hero who boldly wore his nation's uniform in the full sunshine of combat.

The first man is afraid to reveal his name. The second man wore his name emblazoned proudly on the right side of his chest with "U.S. Army" inscribed across his heart.

The first man is not a man at all, and his name matters not. The second man - the true man - is the one deserving of headlines and glory. The second man is Steamboat's Eric O'Hara.

So, I ask again.

How do we say "thank you" to a young man gone too early?

How do we say "thank you" to a young man who stepped up when so many didn't?

How do we say "thank you" to a young man who answered the call of his country?

The answer is to give thanks every day for all the young men and women who step up while too many of us look the other way.

The answer is to give thanks every day that we have soldiers like Eric.

The answer is to give thanks every day for the life of Eric and remember him in our hearts.

So today, I say "thank you" to a good man.

I say "thank you" to a brave soldier.

Thank you, Eric.

Comments

MtnWarlock 6 years, 9 months ago

Rob, Nice article! Thank you for you efforts to remember. Today's soldiers are an "all volunteer" force. They are not drafted like they were during the wars of before like many were. I believe this makes a strong statement about today's military men and women who serve their country. We have a nation full of vets whom I am equally grateful for. Freedom is not free. Freedom has a steep price tag that many will not sign on the line to pay. Seeing soldiers return home safe and succeed after their military TOD, is wonderful. I'm a vet and I've been fortunate to do just that. I give thanks daily! For Eric....... Salute!

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daboatkid 6 years, 9 months ago

Great article Rob. And thank you, Eric. And thank you to all of the other brave young men and women from Routt County and the rest of the country for doing what the rest of us are not man enough to do. We need more articles and updates about our local soldiers in arms while they are still with us, not after they are gone. We will miss you Irish and cheerish our memories together.

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dundalk 6 years, 9 months ago

Rob:

What a fantastic piece. Thank you for drawing attention to those who serve our great country with dignity and bravery. While there are many of us who did not know Eric personally, your article brings us a little closer to him. God rest his soul and a million thanks for his dedication to America.

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 9 months ago

Nice article. Perhaps we can honor him with some type of memorial at our County building?

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candylane 6 years, 9 months ago

Rob thank you for this article. I did not know Eric personally, but this has touched my heart since I heard about it on that Thursday. Everything that has been printed I have read and sorrowed with this family, as if my own. I have wanted to comment but was waiting for what I thought was a proper moment, and I feel that may be now.

My son joined the army after he graduated. There are several other parents in Routt whose children also joined and have had the same responses that we have had. People have either given us sympathy or recriminations. Either they are giving us condolenses because our children have joined or they are asking us why would we let them.

The truth is, as a strong Christian based family, we believe that everyone has a day that they are born and the day that they will die is already recorded. No one here knows when or how that will happen, just live every day as if it were your last. My husband and I both knew that we had enough influence that we probably could have talked our son out of joining the army. We felt that if he did some thing that made us happy, and gave us the "safe for you" feeling, that he would not be doing what makes him happy. He could live a few years or many years doing what makes us "happy and safe". Then when his day came and he had not lived his life as he wished, but our "safe" idea of how he should have lived,it would have made us feel as if we had taken his life from him. We felt that would have not made us very good parents and so we supported his decision, and would do it again in a heart beat.

When we were reading the comments, so many of them sounded as if they could be about our son. I guess this is the qualities that one has when making the ultimate sacrifice and joining to protect country, freedom and family and not just their own.

When we read that he had only been home for one month, we knew that we had made the right decision. We knew that if our son serves his country for the time he has signed up and loves what he is doing, we made the right decision. He loves every minute of every day he is there (ok maybe not the day they sprayed pepper spray in his face). We pray every night for our son and for all the sons and daughters, husbands and wives and all the gallant people that have these great qualities to join and fight for all that many of us take for granted.

Thank you Eric, my thoughts and prayers are with your family. Thank you, also with your life, and the way you lived it, we know that our son was allowed to make his own "right"decision.

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Rob Douglas 6 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for the encouraging comments.

I know financial times are tight right now for many but, if possible, I hope folks will take a moment and contribute what they can to the memorial fund.

You can do so at any branch of Mountain Valley Bank or by mailing a check to: Eric O'Hara Memorial Fund PO Box 774766 Steamboat Springs CO 80477

That information was alongside the column in the printed edition, but somehow did not make it to this online edition. My apologies for that.

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