Eric L. Darby, stationed in Iraq with the United States Army, returned home to Batesville for the holidays – a surprise gift to his family and friends.
Eric is the son of Rickey and Lila Darby of Batesville.
Darby has been stationed in Iraq since March of 2002. He is with the Second Squadron, Third Armored Calvary Regiment Grim Troop.
Darby, who came home Dec. 19, was stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., before leaving for Iraq.
He received word about getting the opportunity to come home around the first of December but didn’t tell anyone because he wanted to surprise his family.
That is exactly what he did.
Darby boarded a Blackhawk helicopter in Alasad Airport, Iraq, and flew to Baghdad International Airport (BIAD) where he boarded a C-130 Military flight to Kuwait. He then caught a commercial flight to Cyprus. He went from there to Germany, on to Baltimore, Md., then flew to Atlanta, and to Memphis where he rented a car.
Eric had a plan for surprising his family. He hid his rental car in the woods and walked in the back door of one of his aunt’s houses where his mother was resting from the flu.
His mother looked up at him and looked back down before she even realized it was her son. She started screaming when she realized it was Eric.
His next stop was to see his dad at his grandfather’s house.
The soldier walked in the house and surprised the both of them. His grandfather, A.B. Darby of Courtland, had prayed so hard for Eric to get to come home.
Eric continued to shock his family making his rounds on that Saturday. One of his aunts was having her Christmas in Pope and a lot of his family was there. He drove up with his dad and grandfather to that house. There were a lot of tears shed that day and the entire family was so happy to see him. He finished the day by visiting all of his family on his dad’s and mom’s side.
Eric spent Christmas Eve at his grandfather Darby’s house, which has been the tradition for many years and this year would be no different. He enjoyed the night with about 60 family members, including aunts, uncles, and cousins.
He said he was in so many pictures that he felt like a celebrity but he was so glad to be able to be home with his family.
On Christmas Day, he spent the day with his other grandfather, Bobby Jaco and the Jaco family. It was another tradition for him and his family as he was growing up.
Both of Eric’s grandmothers have passed away.
Eric described his stay in Iraq as long. He knows that he is doing something good for his country but at the same time, he said life there can be repetitive and lonely.
He had been on the border of Syria for several weeks and had experienced few attacks. He will return there and the last word that he received was that he might return to Colorado in mid-April.
He will return to Iraq on Jan. 3.
Eric said that he is so thankful for his family’s support and the many people in his hometown who have sent words of encouragement to him. He has received packages from people in Batesville and other cities and he is very thankful to everyone for those and for everyone’s prayers.