Eric Frazier’s life changed forever on Oct. 23, 2006 when his Humvee drove over an IED in Iraq. Frazier lost both his legs while fighting for America as a U.S. Marine.
To help with the unique household needs he’ll have for the rest of his life, LCpl. Frazier (ret.) has been awarded a specially built home through the Helping a Hero program. It will be a 2,900-square-foot home with an additional 1,500 square feet under roof to accommodate Eric, his wife Erika, and their four children.
A ceremony that spared no frills was held Tuesday at Rotary Park in Manchester, complete with a bald eagle, words from Gov. Bill Lee, and a flag-waving version of “God Bless the USA” sung by Lee Greenwood himself.
Frazier, 35, is a Warren County native and 2004 graduate of WCHS. The home will be located in Manchester with the goal of having it done by Christmas. Frazier says it will be a huge benefit in his life filled with putting on and taking off two prosthetic legs.
“It really limits me when I take my legs off at night because I don’t live in a handicap-accessible house. I never have,” said Frazier. “The zero-rise entrances of this house that will allow me to go outside without my legs will be immeasurable to me. It will be so much easier to enjoy the kids in the yard. It will also make the garage more accessible and that’s a big thing for me because I enjoy working on cars. It’s so much easier to get under a car without those legs strapped on because they act like dead weight.”
It’s been over 15 years since his injury and Frazier says people often tell him they are sorry he lost his legs. He said his mindset remains on moving forward.
“I’m grateful for the challenge of being able to rise up and be better from this,” said Frazier. “It completely changed my outlook. It’s made me a stronger, better person. It’s educated me in a way that I should be educated.”
Does he still think about the day when the bomb exploded and two of his fellow Marines with him in the Humvee died?
“I remember everything up to that point,” said Frazier. “It was a normal day. We were cutting up and I was talking on the radio and then it happened.”
Frazier said it took about two years but he finally gained some memories of the moments immediately after the explosion.
He recalls waking up immobilized on the ground.
“I remember lying on the ground looking up through broken sunglasses,” said Frazier. “I couldn’t really feel my body or any sensitivity on my skin but I could feel pressure.”
Outside of those few moments, he doesn’t have any memory of the next five days.
“I woke up five days later at a hospital in Germany,” said Frazier. “I remember seeing an officer that looked important so I figured I better stand up and salute. When I tried to stand up, all I heard was, “No, no, no!” Three days later, I woke up at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland with a nurse briefing me that I had lost my legs but I was going to be OK.”
In a chore most people will never know, Frazier says it takes 10-15 minutes to put his legs on each morning. Tuesday's ceremony was physically demanding, Frazier noted, because he was on his legs for about eight hours.
Frazier says he frequently gets asked to speak during military holidays and veterans-related events. A shy kid growing up, Eric says he’s becoming more comfortable in front of a microphone.
“I kept quiet as a kid and had a little bit of a stutter,” said Frazier. “Going to Iraq, I realized real fast that I had to get my words straight. Going to Iraq fixed my stutter.”
Frazier says he hopes to be an inspiration by continuing to maintain employment. He’s worked at Morrison Hardware for the past year and a half.
Helping a Hero has a goal of finding homes for 100 veterans. Organizers announced Tuesday they have awarded 16 homes with 84 to go.
Staff Sgt. J.D. Williams of the U.S. Army is currently living in a custom home built for his needs as a triple amputee.
“It’s great, but it opens me up to doing things like dishes and the laundry,” joked Williams before returning to seriousness. “It’s changed my whole life.
Homes are built to maximize independence and contain features such as lower kitchen counters that a wheelchair can roll under, roll-in-showers, wider doorways, adapted bathroom facilities, and zero-level entryways.
Said Williams of the grandeur of Tuesday’s ceremony, “I hope our enemies overseas are seeing things like this and getting kind of ticked off because you can’t crush the American spirit!”
Gov. Bill Lee spoke and told the crowd that conflicts like Russia’s attack on Ukraine show the value of our freedom.
“It’s only available to us because of the men and women in uniform who serve our nation in the Armed Forces,” said Gov. Lee. “You represent the best of America. You understand it is worth defending and protecting and you know what that means more than anyone else here will know. You do this so we can live in the greatest nation in the world.”
Helping a Hero homes are ordinarily built in communities where the lot is donated and the builder builds at cost. Helping a Hero raises the funds needed and the veteran is asked to make a commitment to live there for 10 years and contribute $50,000.
Frazier had a bridge on New Nashville Highway dedicated in his honor in July 2016. He joined the U.S. Marines two months after his high school graduation in July 2004.