Editor's note: Staff writer Juliana Keeping is following members of the Michigan National Guard through social media and video during a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan. She is sharing their stories with readers on NewsOK.com.
Meanwhile, 7,000 miles away, an improvised explosive device detonated, flipping Eric Lund's vehicle, trapping him in the turret. Small-arms fire rained down all around him. Both of his arms were destroyed. His face, ripped by shrapnel.
Lund is a member of the Michigan National Guard, one of 1,700 guardsmen deployed now.
Nine other Guardsmen were hurt in the blast that took Eric Lund's arms. He and two others are recovering from their injuries in Germany.
His aunt, Melissa Boggs, asked for prayers, for all of them.
“We do know he lost both his arms above the elbow,” she said Thursday. “He has a fractured pelvis and a crushed femur. He has a fracture in his back. He has many shrapnel wounds, facial fractures and a broken nose.”
He lost his right arm in the explosion. His left one had to be removed due to arterial damage.
It's easy to forget about the troops in our bubble of safety and comfort. To read something, feel something, and then just move on. It doesn't seem right.
A year ago, I had an idea.
I wanted to tell the stories of deployed Guardsmen.
I would act as more of a bridge than a correspondent, funneling citizen soldiers' experiences from the warfront to readers.
As someone who doesn't understand exactly what it's like to deploy or to wait for a loved one to return from war, I wanted to understand. Out of curiosity, a love of story, and the belief that a little additional understanding of the human experience can't hurt.
As it happened, our socially networked world lends itself to that brand of understanding. All my idea needed was a few infantrymen willing to correspond with a reporter, shedding light on life at war. That and a National Guard unit willing to trust me to help tell its story.
That unit is the Viking Battalion, which is otherwise known as the Michigan Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment. Soldiers with the Michigan infantry unit I'm following left for Afghanistan in early 2012 and will return near the end of the year.
At the time I had the idea, I was a reporter at a small digital startup in Michigan, my home state. I started work at The Oklahoman in January, just as they left for war.
I brought my idea with me to my new home, and I call the resulting multimedia project Viking's War.
Members of the Viking Battalion are living in Afghanistan now, but they also maintain a steady Facebook presence. With the right questions and the right treatment, some of what they post can become a slice of life, part of a larger story. That's where I come in. The soldiers have cameras, too. Last month, I received the first footage from Afghanistan. I've been sharing these stories on our blog network, on Facebook and on Twitter.
These are stories of the lives of a few Michigan infantrymen and their families back home. Missed birthdays and funerals. Homesickness and heartache. Boredom and danger.
And hope that the war returns their soldiers, unscathed.
Eric Lund's family had hoped for that very thing.