He's fought in Iraq for nine months. He stepped on a land mine and earned a Purple Heart. But a 22-year-old Army soldier from Whitehouse has received a huge Christmas gift. He's home for the holidays -- at least for a few weeks.
"It's amazing. It's a blessing," says Specialist Eric Forbis. Eric's just 22, but has been fighting in Iraq for most of this year.
"Saying 'goodbye' the first time was rough," he says. "Welcome back" won't last long either. Eric is just here until the 29th. Just past Christmas.
"[Eric] called Thanksgiving Day and he said, 'Happy Thanksgiving and I have leave.'" says mother Deborah Forbis.
He had R&R to come home. A hero with a purple heart. Eric stepped on a land mine in August.
"It went off about two feet in front of me."
Shrapnel peppered his body.
"Now the whole top of my foot is numb, and any pressure -- it hurts every time I put a shoe on," Eric says.
At home, the news came with a phone call. Following was every mother's instinct.
"Moms are always supposed to be there, and I couldn't be there. The past nine months have been an eternity, because when we said goodbye to him, we didn't know if we could see him again," Deborah says.
Along the way, Eric's lost several buddies to suicide bombs and snipers.
"You grow attached to these guys and they're brothers. You work with them every day and you know their families," he says.
For those families, life will never be the same. But for Eric's father, there is pride in every soldier.
"They are over there to win that war. In order to do that, my son had to earn a purple heart," says Guy Forbis.
"Thankfully I've never missed a Christmas. I've always been here for Christmas, no matter what," Eric says.
Mother Deborah: "Now he's given us the best Christmas present. I don't know anything else."
Eric's main duty in Iraq is to drive a version of the Bradley fighting vehicle. He's expecting to stay in Iraq through at least the first three months of next year.
Reported by Morgan Palmer.
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