Local wounded warrior Eric Lund, a retired sergeant in the U.S. Army National Guard who lost both arms in the war in Afghanistan, has another chance to tell his story — this time through art.
He worked with Detroit Piston basketball player Kyle Singler (who was a visual arts major at Duke University), the Pistons’ own designer Nic Zalewski and design teammates to create a T-shirt through Fashion Has Heart.
The shirt — titled Victory — represents Lund’s battle to survive, “and since then, he’s done much more than just that …,” according to Fashion Has Heart founder Michael Hyacinthe.
“The blue wave-like motion within his design represents defying the odds in learning how to surf, while the red stands for the stripes on the U.S. flag,” Hyacinthe uses as a description. “The fluidity of the design signifies the journey Lund faces on a daily basis, while the olive branches signify the victory he works toward and the reward of peace it brings him. The dot within the ‘V’ is the ‘faith of a mustard seed’ he and his family clung onto in the darkest hours. Each star symbolizes an arm lost while the ‘A’ above is a reminder that May 20 was really his ‘alive day’ in his new life, where nothing goes unappreciated.”
The shirts, $20 each, are available now at www.fashionhasheart.com, and on Sunday at the Pistons’ Hoops for Heroes game, where Lund and other veterans will be honored for their service and where Pistons Locker Room store sale proceeds and 50-50 raffle proceeds will go toward the home build.
Lund will also be recognized as a Game Changer through the Detroit Pistons community relations department.
Soon the Fashion Has Heart T-shirts also will be for sale in Ludington, too, at the American Legion, Todd & Brad Reed Photography, and Sportsman’s.
“We invite the community to come to the game, and to purchase the T-shirt,” said Melissa Boggs, Lund’s aunt.
The Pistons took on the cost of creating the shirts and the sale proceeds will go toward Lund’s new home, being built through www.helpingahero.org. The home is going up off Breckenridge Road (off Jebavy) in Hamlin Township and is being custom built by Randy Malliett and volunteer help, specifically for Lund’s needs.
Lund spent time Oct. 22 at The Palace in Auburn Hills — home of the Pistons.
Singler and Zalewski read about Lund before he arrived and helped come up with the following words that resonated with from his story and that they understood through sports — victory, balance, perseverance and overcoming.
They listened and worked with Lund to express his sentiments in a design.
“To watch and listen to them with Eric … there was so much synergy in the room,” Boggs said.
“I’m so happy that I’ve had a chance to meet this man because he’s changed my life in just a few hours,” Singler said.
“It was an incredible experience,” Boggs said.
The process is meant to be therapeutic, Hyacinthe said.
And it was.
“It’s so deep and emotional and meaningful,” Boggs said.
For one, there’s a feeling of accomplishment. Also, the men in the room with her nephew had an outpouring of caring and empathy for him, she said.
Included in the design day was Eric Ensley, a fellow soldier who served with Lund in Charlie Troop, 1st of the 126th, in Afghanistan on May 20, 2012, when the incident occurred.
Lund was a gunner on patrol when the vehicle he was in hit a 200-pound roadside bomb, flipping the vehicle and pinning him under it. He suffered many severe injuries throughout his face and body, including the loss of both arms. The team was fired upon by the enemy who was poised on a nearby mountaintop and continued for about 45 minutes.
Lund called off his team for their safety, but they rescued him, even at great risk to themselves.
One arm was severed at the scene, the other was mostly detached, Ensley said.
“You could hear the fear in the voice of the guy operating the radio. He said, ‘If we don’t get a helicopter here now, this soldier is gonna die,” Ensley said.
“Most people, I think, in that situation would find it really easy to lose hope. I think it’s just incredible what he’s come through,” Ensley said. “He’s not gonna quit. He keeps his hope. He’s stepping forward and it’s incredible. He’s just a testament to what intestinal fortitude really means, and I think it’s awesome. It’s an honor to have served with him,” Ensley said.
Lady to the rescue
Lund now has a service dog, Lady, through the VetDogs program.
“She can open a door, the refrigerator, pick things up off the floor for him and stabilize him if he’s off-balance.
Lund notes, if she couldn’t do one thing, it wouldn’t matter; her companionship is enough.
“Eric has always been a dog person,” Boggs said. “And (Lady) just loves him.”
He spent two weeks in New York training with her and she has been with him here in Ludington for three weeks.
They’ll make a good pair in his new home, which was originally scheduled to be completed by Christmas.
“It looks like a house,” Boggs said of the getting the structure enclosed.
“The community donations have been fabulous, but the corporate donations have been challenging,” she said.
“Labor has been the easiest thing,” Boggs noted. “We live in Ludington and the community is great.”
“We’re $75,000 to $100,000 short in donations,” Boggs said.
Lund will have a $100,000 mortgage, more than double the helpingahero.org requirement, per his choice, but the additional money still needs to be raised.
Helping a Hero provides $100,000, $67,000 comes from the Veterans Administration and there is a small accessible home grant available, plus the mortgage. There remains a shortfall of the roughly $75,000 to $100,000.
Boggs said, “We’re prayerful and confident.”
Helping a Hero has a certain standard about the square footage and quality of home to be built, so he can have a fully barrier-free space, offering the opportunity for friends who use wheelchairs to visit, and it’s adaptable to his needs to allow him to be able to have company, get food from the kitchen to the backyard deck, take a shower with a unique car wash type system.
“There’s such a great bond (among fellow wounded warriors),” Boggs said. “They encourage and inspire each other. This will be a place they can come stay.”
This will be the first Helping a Hero home in Michigan, with plans of more to come after this first one is finished.
This will be a “smart home,” with voice-activated electronics, allowing him to adjust heat and air, blinds and more.
The design also allows him to open doors with the push of a hip.
“I’ve really had to stretch my mind to consider each thing from Eric’s abilities,” Boggs said about helping design the home.
He’s currently living in her home near his homesite, which helps her recognize what he needs.
“He just wants a place to actually live to have some privacy and independence,” Boggs said.
Helping a Hero wants more for him.
It’s being built as maintenance free as possible and with room for him to get married and have a family there, with child-safety in mind.
And his goal remains to raise money to help the next soldier.
“He will feel better about giving keys to the next guy,” Boggs said.
Boggs said she is grateful her husband’s career allows her to do this volunteer work, and especially in this case for her nephew.
“This is blessing me beyond measure,” she said.
Fashion Has Heart
U.S. military veteran and entrepreneur Michael Hyacinthe has coupled fashion and honoring military service in an initiative he calls Fashion Has Heart.
He started the project to honor his wife Sara’s cousin who was killed in combat June 28, 2010, Marine Cpl. Daane DeBoer, whose family lives in the Grand Rapids area and has a home near Ludington.
An improvised explosive device killed DeBoer, age 24, who was on foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
DeBoer died around the time Hyacinthe was hearing buzz about ArtPrize in Grand Rapids and seeing how that new art competition was thriving.
“The family was in mourning because we lost a hero and a family member, and I felt a need to help tell his story,” Hyacinthe said. “I wanted to highlight the fact that we can enjoy the opportunity and creativity of art, but it would not be possible without the sacrifice of people like Daane.”
Hyacinthe said he felt compelled to use the ArtPrize venue as a stage for the idea of allowing veterans to express themselves through design.
Fashion Has Heart pairs wounded veterans with designers and brands to create T-shirts and boots with veteran-inspired designs. The clothing, plus bags and accessories, are available for purchase from the organization’s online store.
Hyacinthe has turned the project — including the veterans telling their stories and how those stories play out in the clothing designs — into an ArtPrize entry.
The creative process of talking out their service and turning it into artwork “actually helps rehabilitate” the veterans, Hyacinthe said.
The HERO[series] Design Week pairing has become an annual event in Grand Rapids with one veteran from each branch of the service.
The veterans were in Big Rapids in May touring the Wolverine Footwear factory where some of the products are being made.
Hyacinthe read about Ludington wounded veteran Eric Lund and wanted to include him as well, even though he wasn’t able to make it by the May event.
“It’s very cool what he’s doing,” Lund said at the time.
“I don’t know anything about designing,” he noted, but Hyacinthe has that covered through the Pistons.
“We started this project with a quadriplegic soldier who was injured by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq,” Hyacinthe said. “His injury has completely handicapped him along with his ability to talk, so our only means of communicating with him is through sounds, letters and numbers. It has been a very fascinating project but also extremely inspiring.”
It is the veterans, including the memory of Daane DeBoer and the sacrifice of people like Eric Lund, who make the organization what it is, said Hyacinthe, who served in the U.S. Navy.
Hyacinthe’s intention is to keep the memory of Daane DeBoer alive.
How to help
Attend Sunday’s Detroit Pistons Hoops for Heroes basketball game against Utah.
Send a check or buy a T-shirt to help with Eric Lund’s house, contact Melissa Boggs at: 5767 Enchanted Forest, Sanford, MI 48657 or at (231) 690-2280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was published in the Nov. 5 print and eEditions of the Ludington Daily News, a followup to a May 26 story about Fashion Has Heart and the plans for Lund and Singler to meet.
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