It was the kind of call a soldier's mother dreads getting, but two weeks ago Bethel Island resident Lynn Huff-Enriquez got one of those calls. Her son Eric Enriquez, 23, who is stationed in Afghanistan, was seriously injured by enemy fire while on patrol.
Enriquez was in his car with two other soldiers embarking on a patrol on Aug. 20 when they were hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. An improvised explosive device also was buried in the ground by near their vehicle, Huff-Enriquez learned.
Huff-Enriquez's first thought was she had to get to her son. Her second was, how?
In the past year alone, Huff-Enriquez has lost her ill husband and her home to foreclosure. She moved from Antioch with a friend to a boat in Bethel Island. Finding the money for the airplane trip to Germany and then getting a passport on short notice was a big problem. That was until she got in touch with friends at the East County Military Families and Friends organization, which supports families of soldiers.
Huff-Enriquez had worked with the group before on fundraising projects to help others and now she was the one in need of support.
With two sons in the military, the injured soldier, an Army Specialist, who is with the 173rd Alpha Batallion, and Phillip "Jake," 26, who is an Army gunner with B Company 3-82, Huff-Enriquez knew that there was a chance one would be hurt in the line of duty.
"The odds are with two boys over there something was going to happen," Huff-Enriquez said. "I didn't know when it's going to happen though."
Even so, she was not prepared, she said. She was happy, however, that her older son was able to see his injured brother before he was flown to Germany.
"Jake was so calm and in control," Huff-Enriquez said of her older son's reaction to his brother's injury. "He knew what to do. He told me, "Calm down, I got this."
Josie Monaghan, founder of the East County Veterans Goup, said one of Huff-Enriquez's biggest concerns was not having a passport though, in the end, it was not necessary because her son was soon flown to the United States for treatment.
"We were able to talk her in to waiting to hear more from the military on her son's condition to see where he would land," Monaghan said. "In many cases soldiers are just in Germany for a short time and then sent to the states."
That was exactly what happened. Huff-Enriquez received a call from her son's nurse who told her his condition and that he would be transferred to Bethesda, Md., right away. By the time Huff-Enriquez left for Maryland on Aug. 28, her son was already getting settled in an Amy-based hospital in the states and no passport was needed.
Early in the morning of Aug. 29, she was finally able to speak to him for the first time via phone.
"I could barely understand what he was saying when I first talked with him. His nurse called me. I'm telling you the relief I felt ... I didn't even cry."
While Huff-Enriquez was getting ready to visit her son, Monaghan and her group we getting word out to their contacts and supporters that Huff-Enriquez needed help. The group set up a trust fund and money started coming in right away.
"It doesn't matter if it is $10 or $20," Monaghan said. "It is just that people supported those in need and that they are cared about. It is the moral support that counts."
At this point it is unclear how long Huff-Enriquez will stay in Maryland to help her son, who suffered a laceration to his chin, which required stitches and wiring his jaw shut. Huff also had four hairline fractures to his spine, suffered a T-7 fracture and his right tibia was broken. He was put into a medically induced coma for a short time so his body could more quickly heal.
The East County Military Families and Friends are supplying a $250 gift card so that Huff-Enriquez can get needed supplies for an extended stay with her son. Other organizations are available that can help pay airfare and short hotel stays. Those funds often run out fast, however, and the East County Military Families and Friends group is still accepting donations for future needs as they arise for Huff-Enriquez and her son.
Donations can be made at www.eastcountyveterans.org by going to the "Donate" page. Donations can be made specifically to Huff-Enriquez or to soldiers in general.
Reach Roni Gehlke at email@example.com.
What: Trust fund for injured soldier Eric Enriquez and family
Info: 925-206-4113 or www.eastcountyveterans.org