MSG Eric Marts
Two improvised explosive device (IED) blasts during Army MSG Eric Marts’ 2006 deployment serving with the 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion, 34th Infantry Division in Fallujah, Iraq took his vision. Shortly after the first blast, he started losing vision in one of his eyes. He continued to serve, but after being in another blast, the condition worsened. The traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused swelling in his optic nerves, resulting in him going blind in both eyes. He has also undergone surgeries for neck and shoulder injuries and experiences balance issues.
Eric and his wife Bobbie currently live in a trailer park in Moorhead, MN. The home presents many challenges for Eric. The hallways are narrow, making it difficult for his Seeing Eye Dog Deacon to do his job, and the bedrooms have barely enough space for Eric’s equipment. He and Bobbie used to love cooking together but their current kitchen isn’t big enough for the two of them to be in at the same time. Bobbie is also afraid to leave Eric alone in case of strangers approaching the home.
Eric and Bobbie look forward to the day Eric will have enough room for Deacon to be able to guide Eric around their home easily and a security system will be in place, making it safe for Eric to be home alone. Most importantly, they will have enough room to invite their five grown children and grandchildren over for holidays and cookouts. Eric’s other plans include continuing with his radio show called Heroes of the Heartland, and working with other Veterans. He is currently a member of HFOT’s Veteran Action and Advisory Team (VAAT).
During Eric’s recovery in reintegration training, a Vietnam Veteran visited his group with an injured bald eagle. The bird had a broken wing and head injury after being hit by a car. Eric says he strained as hard as he could to see the bird, to whom he could relate deeply – once so strong and powerful it could soar across the country, now no longer could. Unable to catch a glimpse of the eagle, he became emotional. As he stood to get his picture taken, the bird popped his head up, looked at Eric and stretched out its healthy wing, wrapping it around Eric’s shoulder. “This is how I feel about American people and organizations like Homes For Our Troops, they are taking me under their wing.”