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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 9:14 p.m., Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Schofield Barracks soldier injured in Iraq dies

Advertiser Staff and News Services

A 20-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier died Christmas day in Germany of a non-combat injury received Friday in Baghdad, Iraq, the Pentagon said.

Pfc. Eric R. Wilkus, of Hamilton, N.J., was assigned to the 57th Military Police Company, 8th Military Police Brigade at Schofield.

Wilkus' unit, which deployed out of South Korea, was reassigned in October to the Schofield brigade while in Iraq.

Wilkus died at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The military said the incident is under investigation.

Fifteen Schofield Barracks soldiers have been killed in Iraq since September.

More than 7,000 Hawai'i soldiers are based in northern Iraq on a yearlong deployment that's not yet at the halfway mark.

At least 54 Iraqis died today in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad.

Separately, U.S. military officials announced the seven American deaths, raising the death toll significantly in one of the bloodiest months for the military this year.

The latest deaths pushed the U.S. military toll for the month to 90. With five days remaining in the month, December is already the second-deadliest month for the U.S. military this year, behind the 105 soldiers killed in October.

Wilkus was a volunteer firefighter with the White Horse Fire Co. in Hamilton, The Star-Ledger of Newark said on its Web site.

White Horse Fire Chief Richard Soltis Jr. remembered Wilkus as a hard worker.

"He was excited to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is a firefighter, and his aunt, who is involved in the emergency services, and his grandfather, who was also involved in the fire service," Soltis told The Star-Ledger.