Remembering the Life and Memory of...
Birth: Oct. 1, 1985
New Jersey, USA
Death: Nov. 14, 2006, Iraq
Army Spc. Rivera was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany. Rivera died of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations in Ramadi. His job in Iraq consisted of training Iraqi soldiers in Baquba and gathering intelligence on insurgents. He kept his wife calm by telling her he was working a desk job when he was actually kicking in doors and battling through firefights. Eric graduated from Atlantic City High School in 2003 and joined the Army shortly after. Instead of seeking his family's approval, he surprised them with the decision and he re-enlisted the same way last June. Ultimately, he wanted to spend 20 years in the Army, retire, and then join the Atlantic City Police Department's SWAT team. Eric was a happy, helpful, generous person who could get people laughing. He also was strong and brave and would never back down from anything. While his family gathered in the family home mourning him, the postman delivered a letter Eric wrote November 3 and mailed November 5. In it he said, "Right now, current operations are busy. We just sleep what we can. We would raid at least eight buildings, that's including schools and other gov't areas. Oh yeah, there are bomb caches in schools hidden. But thank the Lord that loves me that I have not been shot in the face yet." At the end of the four-page letter, Eric told his brother, who is attending the police academy, that he wanted to see the academy graduation. "It would mean a lot to me if I see you like you saw me in my uniform". He ended the letter by telling him not to tell their mom that he was in Iraq. Their mother was so worried about Eric that he and his brother told her he was in Germany. She only learned the truth after he died. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action and the Bronze Star Medal.
Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery
New Jersey, USA
RIVERA, SPECIALIST ERIC G. PALACIOS 21 - of Atlantic City, died in Ar Ramadi, Iraq November 14, 2006 as a result of wounds received in action. Born and raised in Atlantic City. Eric attended the local school system and graduated from Atlantic City High School. He will be remembered as always a happy, helpful and kind person, always willing to lend a hand and he always had a smile on his face. He was a natural leader. Eric enlisted in the U.S Army following graduation. After Basic Training, Eric was assigned to his unit in Germany. Assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment he saw action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His unit was deployed to Iraq for a second time in September serving in the Ar Ramadi area where he was mortally wounded. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action and the Bronze Star Medal for "Meritorious service for his duty performance and selfless service in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself" He died doing what he loved-the Army and helping people. He will be sadly missed by family and friends. Eric is survived by his mother Cayetana Palacios of Atlantic City, brother Jefferson Rivera of Atlantic City, niece Emily Rivera of Atlantic City and many friends.
Every day he’s on the job, Atlantic City police Officer Jefferson Rivera wears dog tags bearing his brother’s name: Army Spc. Eric G. Palacios Rivera.
Eric, his only sibling, was 21 when he was killed in a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq, in November 2006.
“He got killed the day he was supposed to leave for a visit home,” Jefferson said. “One of his buddies said the guys were under fire, and (Eric) was the platoon leader. They needed someone to go out front (to provide cover). Even though he was leaving in a few hours, he went.”
The rest of the platoon got to safety, said Jefferson, 33, of Egg Harbor Township.
“I know he loved the military,” Jefferson said of his brother, who was on his second tour in Iraq. “He’d do it all over again.”
The brothers grew up together in Atlantic City. Jefferson said he feels the pressure of being his mom’s only surviving child.
“Especially with my job, you never know,” Jefferson said. “I was working vice for five years, and it was all guns and drugs. It made me more careful. I don’t want my mom receiving another folded-up flag.”
Their mother, Cayetana Palacios, of Atlantic City, has worked at Caesars Atlantic City for 30 years in environmental services. She said time has helped her.
“I still have pain and suffering, but time has healed it a little bit,” she said through a translator and friend, Ida Martinez, of Atlantic City. “Having the support from family and friends is important.”