Eric Lorence Hero Story
Army Captain Eric Lorence had been deployed to Afghanistan for five months when the unthinkable happened. On March 12, 2010, his unit’s truck hit an improvised explosive device (IED) while on a routine patrol.
“It killed my gunner,” Eric said. “My buddy got his face smashed in. I remember waking up and I knew my back was broken. I don’t remember anything after that.”
After he returned to the States, Eric did not lose hope. With Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) at his side, he charted a course to recovery.
Eric had begun his military career in the Marine Corps, where he served for four years. After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, he again committed to serving his country—this time in the Army. As military police, he was deployed overseas three times, the third ending abruptly with the attack on his unit. Eric was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, to receive care, where it was confirmed that his T7 vertebra was partially fractured. After a few weeks, he was transferred to the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Center within the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Through months of difficult rehab, sheer determination and the support of his family, Eric was able to regain 60 percent function in his left leg and 30 percent in his right.
His “can-do” attitude was bolstered by Paralyzed Veterans, with which Eric first had contact within a couple of days after arriving in Minnesota. Jason Stephenson, a Paralyzed Veterans service officer, helped Eric receive his veterans benefits to make his home and cars accessible.
“Paralyzed Veterans just stepped in and helped me,” Eric said. “My Paralyzed Veterans rep explained my benefits and helped me get them.” Those grants allowed Eric to install hand railings, a ramp and hand controls in his trucks, all which were necessary for him to resume activities, including working.
“I want to be a productive person. I don’t want to be a drain…I want to be a positive thing in society,” he said. However, Eric had not worked for almost a year.
Paralyzed Veterans representatives connected Eric with Operation PAVE (Paving Access to Veterans Employment), an innovative, public-private partnership between Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and corporate partners. Vocational rehab counselor Jim Arndt helped Eric create a résumé and apply for work. He succeeded and is now an integral member of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Minneapolis area.
Today Eric enjoys spending time with his wife, Naomi, and their children—often attending local sporting events. But Eric still sometimes struggles to find hobbies. Before he was injured, he kept an active lifestyle playing softball and soccer. Pain issues keep him sidelined—for now: He hopes to take up handcycling on a Paralyzed Veterans’ team in the future.
Eric has accomplished so much in just two years that it’s no surprise he’s always looking ahead. Of his future, he simply says, “I plan to get involved with [Paralyzed Veterans] and help other veterans out as much as they’ve helped me out.”
Kaitlin Inamasu is a George Washington University student and Communications intern at Paralyzed Veterans.