Posted on November 9, 2016
“I first started walking 3 months after I lost my leg,” recalls Sergeant Eric Morante, discussing his recovery from an April 2007 encounter with a suicide bomber in Iraq’s Anbar Province. “I wanted to walk out on my own legs to meet my Marines as they came back from deployment in September.”
Eric, born and raised in Texas, enlisted in the Marines out of high school—“as a kid, I remember watching the commercials: honor, courage, commitment”—and left for boot camp in July 2003. His first deployment to Iraq came in 2004. He returned there for 7 months in 2005, and again in January 2007.
On April 20, 2007, Eric—serving as squad leader of an infantry squad—was one of 8 Marines on a bridge. Six of the 8 would be MEDEVAC’d away from the scene of the explosion.
“It was a suicide bomber,” Eric explains. “This guy went underneath the bridge with a dump truck estimated to have had 3,000 pounds of explosives. He was just 15 feet beneath us.”
“The initial blast, I don’t remember hearing it or feeling it,” he continues. “I woke up under debris and concrete, it was like waking up from a deep sleep or a dream. I heard screams and yells from other squad members who were injured and wounded. That’s when I found out how bad the situation was; all I could do was sit there and hold pressure on my leg. I remember blacking out again. We got hit on a Friday, I woke up the following Sunday in Germany.”
Eric lost his right leg above the knee. He first became aware of the Semper Fi Fund while recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
“I didn’t know what the Semper Fi Fund was all about at first,” he says. “They helped me get back to school, they paid for my books, I got my house furnished, they helped me out with a bed because of my back—they even helped me with training for boxing.”
“I’m the first Marine amputee to compete in amateur boxing,” says Eric, who boxed while he was in high school. “I’m undefeated—I’m 2-0 as an amputee.”
Eric goes by the nickname “The Ironfist” and competes against other amputees in the National Amputee Boxing Association. “We’re the first ones to go through it in the U.S. It’s not a paralympic sport yet, and that’s one of my missions—to make it a paralympic sport.”
From the battlefields of Iraq to the boxing ring in the U.S., Eric sums up his journey in two words. “No limitations. That’s my quote: No limitations. That’s been my quote since a little after I got over my depression—it’s helped me and has pushed me to strive for the best I can be at whatever I do. A lot of times, doctors and therapists and people of all kinds, they put limits on you. For a good time I started to believe it, but one day a change happened that meant a great deal and I started breaking through that barrier, so—no limitations.”
Of the Semper Fi Fund, Eric has nothing but good things to say.
“The Semper Fi Fund is always faithful—‘semper fidelis’ means ‘always faithful’ in Latin, and this organization truly is, and always will be, faithful to what ‘semper fidelis’ is and stands for. I’ve been out since 2010, and they still stay in touch. If I have any issues, I can reach out, and if they can help, they will help. They’ve always been faithful.”
What makes Eric excited these days, aside from his son Jacob, who was born October 2009?
“Just being alive, to tell you the truth—being alive and being in a good state of health,” he says. “Every day is just such a blessing. My time is very valuable to me, especially having been through an explosion where none of us should have survived.”