By PATTI KLEVORN | News Editor |[email protected] |
Sgt. (ret.) Eric Lund is settling into his new home in Hamlin Township. There are some finishing touches being completed this week — landscaping, closet hooks, pantry shelving, decoration — but it’s ready, and he’s happy to be home.
“I love it,” he said.
It was never a question he wanted to be back in his hometown.
“I have family here and I missed the water,” he said.
He spent two years going through surgeries, healing and in rehabilitation in San Antonio, Texas, after the loss of his arms and other serious injuries from a roadside bomb explosion while he was fighting in Afghanistan in May 2012.
He has been back in Ludington since last year, but now he has a home of his own.
An open house to celebrate the home’s completion will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, June 8 with tours of the home community members donated toward and a performance by “God Bless the USA”-famed Lee Greenwood. (Parking at nearby Peace Lutheran Church).
Helping a Hero kicked off the home-build project last August and provided $125,000 toward for its first Michigan build. Donations came in many forms, some direct money but also in-kind gifts of heating, flooring, furniture and much more. Still, Lund will take on a $150,000 mortgage.
The home has some adaptive features, a shower with scrubbers and a dryer, and voice activation for other portions of the home, all to allow Lund to live as independently as possible.
A story in the L.A. Times Monday brought up the issue of post-war coping.
Writer David Cloud opened the story with information about Sgt. (ret.) Eric Lund’s arrest following a Fourth of July celebration in which he was honored in Ludington as the Ludington Area Jaycees Freedom Festival grand marshal.
Lund’s Charlie Troop brothers were in town for the festivities and there was drinking, a lot of it. Lund, with no arms, drank beer through a straw and ended the night angry and tough to control.
That was his sole run-in with the law and family members and friends say it was an isolated situation, not an everyday problem.
Certainly there has been and still is an adjustment back into civilian life and into life without arms, but Lund’s loved ones see him thriving, spending time with friends, playing soccer, and getting into riding his new adaptive bike so much that he plans to participate in a cycling event this fall in Boston.
“Eric is a person,” said Andrew Coughlan, a fellow Ludington High School graduate/football player with Lund and a fellow wounded warrior. “That’s one thing that tends to be overlooked. People see Eric as a double-arm amputee, but he’s still Eric Lund that I knew from high school.”
Coughlan, who now works for the Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville, Florida, and has been a liaison between the Lund family and the organization, said as Eric Lund is in the public eye with the LA Times story and with the open house, it’s important the community does what it does well and continues to be supportive.
“Our community always comes together and I guarantee he and his family appreciate it. Just say a simple thank-you for his service and sacrifices,” Coughlan said. “He doesn’t ask for much and he probably never will.”
Coughlan remembers the day he heard about Lund’s injuries, having received a call from Eric’s aunt Melissa Boggs.
The family helped him when he was returning from war and trying to readjust, and he was now able to return the favor.
Coughlan said Lund continues to surprise everyone around him with how well he is doing.
Even early on in recovery, “I remember visiting him and doctors were so amazed,” he said.
Lund has surpassed their expectations and pursues physical activities people who have all their limbs find difficult, surfing, completing the Bataan Death March, playing soccer and now biking.
Boggs continues to be in awe of Lund’s perseverance as well.
He’s been horseback riding and now has a kayak as well.
“He’s always looking for the next challenge,” Boggs said.
She said he told her, “This (loss of his arms) does not define me.”
“There is so much more to his story,” she said. “He’s just a great example of overcoming all kinds of challenges. He’s a shining example of that.
“He has an incredible mind that has figured out so many ways to navigate his situation that it will surely help the next guy or gal with the same injury. He is very tech savvy, enjoys tinkering in the stock market, wants to go back to school, will definitely work again — and he plays a mean game of soccer with a bunch of buddies … ” she said. “He laughs more then he ever has and his smile lights up a room.”
Lund loves life and he is moving into a home that is more than he had ever dared dream for, Boggs said.
“With a whole lot of prayer, the faith of a mustard seed and the love and support of his family, his friends, his military brothers and this awesome community — Eric is an overcomer,” she said. “But know that’s what it takes, that’s the support you need. It takes love, patience, respect, and some bumps along the way. If you know a veteran who is struggling, excuse him, support him, pray for him and show him love and respect — he can be an overcomer, too, sometimes it takes a village and sometimes it just takes one person to care.”
Boggs and Coughlan both said it is important to get the word out that there is help for those struggling with a return home from war.
“The thing with readjustment that a lot of returning guys go through is they simply feel misunderstood,” Coughlan said, speaking firsthand about the subject. “They’re going 100 mph for 12 or 18 months and then they’re expected to just turn off a switch. It’s really not that easy.”
He said he has learned and can say to tell fellow veterans, “The civilian community, they really do care. There seems to be a divide between military and civilians … (civilians) want to understand, but some of the responsibility comes back on the veteran.”
Talk about it, ask for help. Resources are available for veterans and their families, he said.
The Wounded Warriors veterans crisis line is 800-273-8255.