Veteran Adam Eilers settles into life back at home
By Molly Moser
To peek down a gravel road and into the quiet country life of rural Garnavillo resident Adam Eilers, you’d never know that his not-so-distant past contains wheelchairs, surgeries, and hospital beds. Surrounded by fields of corn, his nine-acre property is a picture of Iowa serenity. A creaking, rusted windmill turns slowly, a cow and a goat graze, and two friendly dogs greet visitors at the door.
Two and a half years ago, a bomb detonated near the armored vehicle that contained Army National Guard Corporal Adam Eilers and two other Iowa National Guard Soldiers. Eilers spent nine months recovering from his injuries, and now, it seems, he’s settled back into civilian life.
“I bought this place at the end of June last year,” he says, “but I didn’t move in till that October.” In just three months, with the help of friends and family, Eilers’ house got a complete overhaul. It required new wiring, windows, and plumbing; removal of multiple layers of wallpaper; and an entire revamp of the kitchen and ground floor bathroom.
Though he lives a peaceful life near his family and childhood friends, one doesn’t have to look far to see the impact of his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. He points out the cedar walls and heated tile floors in his bathroom, then notes, “The shower is handicap accessible. I’ve been in a wheelchair, so I know what that’s like.”
Eilers and his father have been busy canning tomatoes and other vegetables grown this summer in a raised garden bed in Eilers’ yard. “The raised bed saves my back a lot. My back’s not great, because it’s been broken in a few places,” he says.
Continuing a tour of his home upstairs, Eilers points out a claw-foot tub and a balcony. “I call this my tree stand,” he says with a smile. It’s all appealing, but most impressive is an enormous pair of elk antlers taking up the majority of a spare bedroom.
“That’s what I did earlier this month,” he explains. Through a program called Honoring Our Veterans, Eilers was able to participate in a guided elk hunt in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
In September of 2012, Eilers was invited to dinner with Mike Ehredt of Project America Run. Ehredt ran for 11 weeks, pausing each mile to plant a flag in honor of soldiers who served and died in Afghanistan. “Mike called me one day and connected me with this woman from Honoring Our Veterans,” explained Eilers. The result of that connection will not be easily forgotten.
Using a 7mm rifle, Eilers brought down a 480-pound 6x6 bull. Five days later, with a cooler full of meat and the rack strapped to the roof of his Jeep, he made the 20-hour drive home. “The meat is ‘oh my God’ awesome,” he says, and recounts the numerous drivers who gave him a thumbs-up when they saw him traveling down the interstate with his prize.
While in Wyoming, Eilers planned to do some site seeing. “We couldn’t go to Yellowstone because the government was shut down, so that ruined that,” he recalls. All was not lost, however, because instead an Honoring Our Veterans committee member flew Eilers over the park in his plane.
The shutdown did not affect Eilers’ veteran’s benefits. “I thought for sure it would, but I still got paid and still got all my medical insurance,” he told The Press.
Eilers is still putting the finishing touches on his newly remodeled space. His home is decorated with reminders of his time in the Army National Guard, from patriotic artwork to a display of dozens of military service commendation medals. “I’d like to get a flag up for every country I’ve been in,” says Eilers, who has been deployed twice and visited roughly a dozen countries.
This Veteran’s Day, we are grateful to Eilers and others like him for their sacrifice and service – and we’re even more grateful for his return home.