KIA April 7, 2003
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Assigned to 333rd Fighter Squadron based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina
Killed when his F-15E was shot down during a combat mission in Iraq. Also killed was the plane’s weapon system officer.
When Eric Das was a kid, growing up in Amarillo, Texas, he had a game he’d play. “Whenever an airplane flew overhead, he’d point up and say, ‘Coach, do you know what kind of plane that is?’” Jim Langdon, who coaches track at Amarillo High School, recalled. “I’d say, ‘No.’ Then he’d tell me. He knew every kind of plane that flew in the sky.”
Eric is the son of missionaries and was born in the Netherlands where his parents were working. The family lived briefly near the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where Das watched planes fly overhead and people parachute from the sky. He eventually went to school there. “He was the kind of kid who made coaching fun,” said Langdon, who remembers Das even though it’s been more than 10 years since he graduated and went on to the Air Force Academy.
After earning a degree in civil engineering and his wings, Das was stationed in Alaska. He met his wife, Nikki, 25, an Air Force first lieutenant, there. She was the sister of one of his pilot buddies. They met at the Officer’s Club. When the song, “Amarillo by Morning,” played, he asked her to dance. They married 18 months ago and were stationed in Kuwait in side-by-side tents — he as a pilot, she as an intelligence officer. “We’d eat together in the mess hall and he’d joke that he was buying,” she said.
“You have to have priorities in life, and Eric had them — God, family and country, in that order,” Nikki Das said. “He had a wonderful magnetic spirit. He had a fulfilled life, and he died doing the thing he loved. He was very patriotic. And our freedom is not free.”
Capt. Eric Das was 30 years old from Amarillo, Texas
Original portrait of Eric was presented to his parents on May 16, 2009 during a special event held in Amarillo, Texas.