The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Bayji, Iraq. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
- Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, of Waldwick, N.J., who died Dec. 4 in Bayji, Iraq.
- Pvt. Dewayne L. White, 27, of Country Club Hills, Ill., who died Dec. 4 in Bayji, Iraq.Capt.
- Adam P. Snyder, 26, of Fort Pierce, Fla., who died Dec. 5 in Balad, Iraq.
These three men won't be coming back to their families for this or any other holiday season:
Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez
Dewayne L. White
Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, had an older brother and a younger sister. His mom and stepdad live in Waldwick, N.J., and he was raised in West Milford, in Passaic County. His father, Craig Hernandez, is a Garnerville resident.
Eric Hernandez had earned his high school equivalency diploma. He knew what he wanted, to join the military, which he did in October 2003. He also had career plans after his Army stint was up - he had already taken the civil service test to become a police officer. His family has a strong law enforcement tradition - his uncle is retired Clarkstown Police Chief William Collins.
White grew up in Chicago's Woodlawn community and attended Curie High School. When his mother and stepfather moved to Country Club Hills during his senior year, White earned his GED and trained to be a welder through a Job Corps program.Adam P. Snyder
White loved to dance, draw cartoons of hip-hop characters and play pool. He adored the family's dog, a Rottweiler named Zeus. And he did a dead-on impression of Donald Duck, his siblings said.
His family remembered how willing White - a broad-shouldered man who stood 6 feet 2 inches - had always been to help others.
When he was about 7 years old, a neighbor gave him a dollar for being a good boy. White gave the money to charity, without urging from adults, because he wanted to help the children of Ethiopia, his mother said.
He maintained that spirit of giving while in Iraq. He always carried candy to pass out to the children, his mother said.
Everyone knew Adam Snyder was something special, even before he graduated in the top 10 percent at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with studies in Arabic and Middle Eastern history, became an Army Ranger and set off for Iraq.
At Fort Pierce's Lincoln Park Academy, he was named "Mr. LPA." Classmates crowned him homecoming king. His lead performance in The Music Man his senior year earned rave reviews. In the yearbook section titled "Most Likely to Appear On the Cover Of," Snyder is shown on an Entertainment Weekly headlined "Adam Snyder Wins Tony for Music Man."
He loved acting. As a child, he attended three years of theater camp at the Pineapple Playhouse, the local community theater. He struck a deal with his family: After the Army, in 2009, he would go to Hollywood for a year to try his hand at acting.
At Westside Baptist, he had been heavily involved with the youth group. Every summer, he volunteered as a counselor at vacation Bible camp.
"He made coming to church cool to the kids," Ingersoll said. "He didn't have to go to West Point to learn how to lead."