Most residents of Long Island realize that their firefighters/EMTs get up all hours of the night, in all kinds of weather to respond to the emergency needs of their communities. But, there is so much more that these dedicated men and women do that is not as well known. Among these activities is the commitment by the fire departments of Nassau County over the past five years to Operation Wounded Warrior (OWW). In December each year, members of these departments in convoys of emergency vehicles (The Long Red Line) visit the medical facilities at Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg, Walter Reed, and Bethesda providing needed items to our wounded men and women. Items include donated handmade gifts and recreation electronics. Get Well cards play a big role as well. (View details including a video at ncff-oww.com)
OWW members have met and visited with many of the troops. Over the years they have watched the rehab of these heroes progress. One of the most exemplary of these progressed enough to come visit from North Carolina. On May 16, several members of local fire departments had the opportunity to welcome and host 29-year-old Army Sgt. Eric Edmundson and his family, from New Bern, NC, at Stewart Manor fire headquarters. Eric has become one of the most famous of the wounded warriors.
Eric’s story began only a few months after he arrived in Iraq with the 4/14 Cavalry, 172nd Stryker Brigade. On Oct. 2, 2005, the Stryker vehicle he was driving was struck by a roadside bomb. Eric was severely injured by the blast trauma and shrapnel tore into much of his body. His injuries were extensive and he required evacuation to a military hospital in Germany. While being evacuated, Eric went into cardiac arrest. He was again saved but was oxygen deprived for several minutes. He sustained anoric brain trauma that limited his mobility, speech and his ability to care for himself. After some time, his family was told by military medical personnel that Eric would remain in a vegetative state; a nursing home was recommended.
Not so! Eric’s strength and determination proved otherwise. With the help of his loving family and friends Eric is now able to propel himself in a wheel chair, communicate through a communication device and body language (especially his beautiful eyes), and enjoy some of his lifelong pleasures such as, believe it or not, hunting and fishing with gear specially designed to function with Eric’s current limitations.
Eric and his family are role models for what the human spirit can achieve with love, determination and commitment. His immediate family includes his mom Beth, his dad Ed, his wife Stephanie, 5-year-old daughter Gracie, sister Anna and her husband Roger. Eric continues to make progress with his incredible support network from far and wide. And, let’s not forget the value of the commitment of our local “heroes” whom we depend on at any time of day or night in all weather.
If you want to know more about Sgt. Eric Edmunson’s history, please Google him.