Archived News

From one battlefield to another: A military family called to serve others

Eric, (above, from Left) Keri, Austin and Jessy Hill. Donated photo Eric, (above, from Left) Keri, Austin and Jessy Hill. Donated photo

Canton native Eric Hill was 18 when he decided to join the military. It was a quick decision. He wanted to get married and needed a way to provide support. What sprang forth from that decision was more than he could have envisioned.

“I didn’t do so well in high school, didn’t have much hope for college,” Hill said. 

He had a full-time job that just wasn’t enough to support a family. He needed a plan if she said yes when time came. 

It turned out she, Keri, did say yes, and it turned out the military is what Hill saw as the clearest path to supporting a family. 

“The military was the easiest answer. Honestly, I decided to go into the military in like one day,” Hill said. 

 

Related Items

Military service

Hill attended basic training in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1993. He and his wife Keri were engaged at the time. From there it was on to advanced infantry training in Fort Gordon, Georgia, to be a communications specialist. Then to jump school at Fort Benning and then back to Fort Bragg where he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne. 

He stayed with the 82nd Airborne for about nine months, after which he was transferred across post to the 507th corps support group. That’s where he stayed until he got out in 1996. After four years in inactive ready reserve, on the day of Keri and Eric’s anniversary, Aug. 20, 2001, Hill got an honorable discharge certificate. 

“I was free and clear,” said Hill. 

Less than one month later, on Sept. 12, 2001, Hill re-enlisted following the 9/11 attacks.

“I laid that discharge paper on a recruiter’s desk in Asheville and told them they needed to put me back,” he recalled. 

By April 2002, Hill was assigned to a unit in Knoxville, Tennessee, that he stayed with until 2003. Then, he was assigned to the 926 engineer group in Montgomery, Alabama, to be deployed. He stayed with the 926 from 2003 until 2014. 

In 2003-2004 the group was in Mosul, Iraq. There were no living quarters or bathhouses until late in 2004. During that first tour in Iraq, Hill was leaving behind a 2-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. 

“The first tour, it was a lot rougher. It was a lot more, I guess, primitive would be the word,” Hill said. 

Hill was serving as a tail gunner for a convoy team, which means he was standing in the back of a truck, out in the open while they were on convoys. It was around this time that Hill had a life-altering experience when he first crossed the line out of Kuwait and into Iraq. He chose not to talk about the details but explained that it caused him to leave the church and rocked his faith for years to come. 

“The second time the living quarters were a lot better. The threat was still there, IEDs were on the rise in 2008 and that was one of my unit’s missions. We had a route clearance company that went out and looked for IEDs, on top of the horizontal and vertical construction teams. And that tour, I was a personal security NCO for our one star general and worked directly with him.  Between the two tours I had a little over 3,000 missions outside of the line,” said Hill. 

After describing his harrowing time in the service, it was his wife Keri who chimed in that Hill was a Bronze Star recipient. 

 

Coming Home

Hill said the transition back home from his first tour was the hardest. 

“I did not transition very well from the first tour,” he said. “Me and Keri had a lot of problems trying to get back in. I was just trying to get from a military mindset back to a family mindset. The kids went to her for everything. It just wasn’t a real good time.”

While it was a struggle, Hill is quick to point out that it made their marriage stronger in the end. 

“Coming home from that first deployment, he was so different,” Keri said. “That was really hard. It was a real big test of endurance, because we were the only family in Haywood County who had someone deployed. So, we did not have a big support staff at the time. That was rough for us.” 

A large part of the struggle they endured was the fact that Hill didn’t attend church with the family. Their daughter Jessy was young during these transition phases, but she remembers times when her father just carried himself differently around the house. She always thought he was mad or angry or there was something wrong. 

“We did a lot better with communication when I was home on the second tour than the first tour. First time around there was hardly any. There were long lines to make phone calls, so phone calls were very rare. The second tour I was able to stay in contact a whole lot better,” Hill said. 

 

fr hills2

Eric Hill pictured in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008, with an Iraqi child. Donated photo

 

“After he came back the second time, again there was no one deployed out of Haywood County, so we were sort of left to our own devices at the time to navigate what PTSD looks like, what combat fatigue looks like, what putting a family back together looks like,” Keri said. “For me, it was a lot of praying, a lot of faith involved.” 

After his second tour, Hill had another one of those rare, life-altering moments. He went to the doctor for a physical and was told that he may have cancer. He didn’t tell his family at the time, but said it really shook him. Things began to cascade, but this time Hill turned back to his faith and returned to church. A few months later, he and Keri were asked to be youth leaders. 

Hill continued to struggle with civilian life though, and by 2013 he was battling depression to the point that he almost committed suicide. It was during his journey out of that depression that he felt called to preach. 

“I prayed about it for about a month without telling anybody,” he said. “Then Keri made a statement one night and I told her. I told her we’d pray about it for another month. And then when I finally gave in and accepted the call to pastor the door swung wide open, and it was just blatantly obvious that was exactly what I was supposed to do.”

 

Serving others

When Hill returned home, he was assigned a Veterans Services officer in Haywood County named Brandon Wilson. As they came to know each other, their friendship developed beyond the role of VSO. 

Through that friendship, Wilson came to the conclusion that Keri was uniquely designed to work for Veterans Services of the Carolinas when he took over as director of the organization. 

“I live with one, I’ve been married to one for a long time and I understand the family side of it,” she said. “Veterans Services gives me a chance to deal with veterans who are facing homelessness or who are already homeless. It gives me the chance to step in and say, ‘you know, I understand how a veteran feels and how a family member feels. I understand that sense of helplessness that you have when you don’t have a lot of support system.”

Keri is now intake coordinator for Veterans Services of the Carolinas. But the family’s work serving others doesn’t end with the church or veteran services. Both Hill children have made a career of helping others. 

Their son Austin graduated from Wake Forest with degrees in psychology and art and is now getting his master’s in social work from the University of Maryland. 

“He wants to work with kids who are facing challenges and difficulties,” Keri said. “That’s not an accident.” 

Their daughter Jessy is an EMT, firefighter, and has recently started work at Veterans Services of the Carolinas as a care coordinator. That means she is one of the people manning the hotline for VSC and is the first line of contact when veterans call needing help. 

“When we grew up, we learned how to take care of each other and others. We grew up watching dad go through that transition,” Jessy said. “So now working here, we get to be that support system and we try to understand what it’s like for them.”

Hill, his wife and his children’s work are connected in intricate ways. 

“If it hadn’t been for the support system that Eric had, he might have been in the same situation [as a lot of the vets we serve]. And part of why we love to do what we do is we are able to come alongside them and give that support,” Keri said. 

Hill said that moving from military service into the pastoral role, he is able to be very direct with people, and he doesn’t have a problem with people being very direct with him. Because of his experiences, he is able to handle difficult scenarios people may be going through and empathize with them.

“The skills and talents that Eric picked up in the military, like leadership, the shepherd role… he has literally traded one battlefield for another,” Keri said. “He still leads a fight. He’s still a leader.”

Leave a comment

24 comments

  • Love this. So many scammer use his pictures and make up stories about him being widowed. It’s a disgrace how social media lets them get away with it. Stolen Valor should be punishable. The Major General and his family are what a military family is all about…

    posted by Grace Castro

    Sunday, 08/21/2022

  • All these women claiming to be talking to the “real Major” are being scammed. Google his information; it’s amazing what information you can find. I have a scammer saying he’s on a “peace mission” in Syria. The Major General is stationed in Florida and retiring. These scammers steal pictures off of the military sites. Do you honestly think that MajGenHill has time to be on the internet at all hours. I’m use a little common sense women. It’s against military policy for ANY soldier to ask a civilian for $$$ they have access to their bank accounts, the internet to keep in contact with their FAMILY. Not romancing women. Geez; when they started social media they really set up all these lonely people. If you send $$$ that’s your fault. What decent man asks a woman for $$$ none. They’re scammers and most likely from some country in Africa. The guy that’s pretending to be the MajGen can’t even finish a complete sentence. I just string them along to try and get their profiles deleted. DO NOT SEND $$ to ANYONE you’ve never met or talked to ir FaceTime and if he’s a soldier, engineer, doctor, he’s a SCAMMER

    posted by Grace Castro

    Friday, 08/05/2022

  • I love this testimony. God does things on his time and his terms and Major General Hill is an example. What an inspiring family.

    posted by Grace Castro

    Friday, 08/05/2022

  • I was scammed by someone pretending to be you however I managed to keep his hands out of my purse. I applaud all that you have accomplished and wish you and your Family well. I was a Navy wife so I still knew some military protocol which came in handy. Enjoy your retirement

    posted by Nancy Hill

    Wednesday, 08/03/2022

  • I was scammed by someone pretending to be you however I managed to keep his hands out of my purse. I applaud all that you have accomplished and wish you and your Family well. I was a Navy wife so I still knew some military protocol which came in handy. Enjoy your retirement

    posted by Nancy Hill

    Wednesday, 08/03/2022

  • There could be a possibility that there are 2 people in the military with the same name. However, from a psychological point of view, a man from the order of General in the Military and with his fabulous looks, would not go looking for company on the web. A man of his class would have too much self respect and dignity to stoop so low as to use his formal Military credentials to attract a lonely woman. It surprises me that the Military themselves have not had this man arrested for impersonating one of their top officers.

    posted by Retha Bain

    Thursday, 07/28/2022

  • There could be a possibility that there are 2 people in the military with the same name. However, from a psychological point of view, a man from the order of General in the Military and with his fabulous looks, would not go looking for company on the web. A man of his class would have too much self respect and dignity to stoop so low as to use his formal Military credentials to attract a lonely woman. It surprises me that the Military themselves have not had this man arrested for impersonating one of their top officers.

    posted by Retha Bain

    Thursday, 07/28/2022

  • Eric Todd Hill of USAF in, Syria age 62 widow to, Gabriella father to, Evan age 15 and a photo he sent to me of the boy he claims is his son, He asked me to meet him on, Google chat, He never asked me for money and he claims that. Their are alot of scammers on the internet acting and playing like him useing his info he is currently trying to stop the intruder from doing scams in his name that its been going on for some time now and that he assures that it's clearly not him and that he is the real eric todd hill and that he wants to be with me and bla bla bla and the things that gets me is that his grammer is messed up. He said he has a email with the .mil at the end but for secruity reasons he cannot give it out and he cannot call me which, I found to be strange but he hasnt once asked me for any money. He tells me that he is retireing in september after 32 years and that his wife is deseaced but soon, Im going to know if its true because, I got the address of his own and family members will be in contact with me we will talk and see if this is true or a scam and if anyone wants to contact me i can be reached at cotton.scented@yahoo.com and we can talk thank you. THIS ERIC TODD HILL IS NOT A PASTOR BY THE WAY HIS WIFE IS NOT KERI ITS GABRIELLA SON IS NOT 17 BUT 15 AND ITS TRUE IHE IS IN SYRIA I NO FOR A FACT BECAUSE I HAVE A MAN I WRITE TO THEIR THAT KNOWS THE GENERAL AND THIS GUY I TALK TO HIS REAL BECAUSE HE WORKS WITH HIM CONTACT ME IF YOU NEED TO.

    posted by pamela Fix

    Saturday, 07/23/2022

  • Eric Todd Hill of USAF in, Syria age 62 widow to, Gabriella father to, Evan age 15 and a photo he sent to me of the boy he claims is his son, He asked me to meet him on, Google chat, He never asked me for money and he claims that. Their are alot of scammers on the internet acting and playing like him useing his info he is currently trying to stop the intruder from doing scams in his name that its been going on for some time now and that he assures that it's clearly not him and that he is the real eric todd hill and that he wants to be with me and bla bla bla and the things that gets me is that his grammer is messed up. He said he has a email with the .mil at the end but for secruity reasons he cannot give it out and he cannot call me which, I found to be strange but he hasnt once asked me for any money. He tells me that he is retireing in september after 32 years and that his wife is deseaced but soon, Im going to know if its true because, I got the address of his own and family members will be in contact with me we will talk and see if this is true or a scam and if anyone wants to conact me i can be reached at cotton.scented@yahoo.com and we can talk thank you.

    posted by pamela Fix

    Saturday, 07/23/2022

  • I am a Christian myself. I can understand what pastor Eric and his family have to face day in day out as Christians. Keep the faith, keep your eyes fixed on the Lord and He will bring you you through every situation you face. God bless.

    posted by Maria Carmen Reillo

    Tuesday, 07/12/2022

  • there is a eric todd hill that claims he's in syria and I thought we were real, but it turns out he needs 2500 to send me his portfolio and I dont have this kind ofmoney,so I WAS LIKE no . and now he claims to have a son named Evan. Mom got killed in a car accident a few years ago, I am the only one he wants to live iwth and spend the rest of his days with, but when I ask him ok so your deployed, or hey i found a military site that will help you out financially, i am sad becaue he is using Eric Todd HIlls major general information and claims he lives in damascus Syria. I dont know its weird and sad. I didn't think he was a scammer until now Im questioning it. why do people do this? and then he had me give contact info to his peole. If he says who he says he is the military would be able to help him with his portfolio and pya for it not a problem. Instead of me paying for it. It's bs. I just ended this conversation wtih him. long one also .

    posted by Amy Haefs

    Tuesday, 07/12/2022

  • there is a eric todd hill that claims he's in syria and I thought we were real, but it turns out he needs 2500 to send me his portfolio and I dont have this kind ofmoney,so I WAS LIKE no . and now he claims to have a son named Evan. Mom got killed in a car accident a few years ago, I am the only one he wants to live iwth and spend the rest of his days with, but when I ask him ok so your deployed, or hey i found a military site that will help you out financially, i am sad becaue he is using Eric Todd HIlls major general information and claims he lives in damascus Syria. I dont know its weird and sad. I didn't think he was a scammer until now Im questioning it. why do people do this? and then he had me give contact info to his peole. If he says who he says he is the military would be able to help him with his portfolio and pya for it not a problem. Instead of me paying for it. It's bs. I just ended this conversation wtih him. long one also .

    posted by Amy Haefs

    Tuesday, 07/12/2022

  • The guy pretending to be him has a picture on a wall of pictures on FB. A tank with soldiers standing by. The name with that photo is the fake general

    posted by Robin Greer

    Monday, 04/25/2022

  • Where is Eric now is he in Syria?

    posted by Sandy Anderson

    Monday, 04/11/2022

  • Until today i just learned that someone is hacking the identity of a very noble and courageous gentleman.
    He tried to victimize me too claiming he is a widow.. This hacker should be caught.. He is disgracing the good name of a gentleman and a Pastor at that.. This scammer was ruining the good nad hard earned name of Gen Eric Hill.
    I hope he will be caught sooner.

    posted by Marcella lopez

    Tuesday, 03/15/2022

  • Eric Hill is either a staler or someone using his identity is

    posted by Emily D Lowrance

    Sunday, 03/13/2022

  • Eric Hill is either a staler or someone using his identity is

    posted by Emily D Lowrance

    Sunday, 03/13/2022

  • Someone is Impersonating Major General Eric Hill on Facebook messenger, he says he’s a widow and is from Florida but in Syria right now I believe he is from a foreign country because he doesn’t write correct English!! This man needs to be caught and stopped!!! He is impersonating an American soldier, I have over 125 years of Military I’m my family and this is shameful . Thank you

    posted by Allyson K Erickson

    Saturday, 03/05/2022

  • Someone on FaceBook is impersonating Major General Hill, he is a scammer from a foreign country. He needs to be caught.

    posted by Lynda J Wilson

    Saturday, 02/26/2022

  • Someone on FaceBook is impersonating you, he is a scammer from a foreign country

    posted by Lynda J Wilson

    Saturday, 02/26/2022

  • The Major General Eric Hill I have been communicating with said his wife died in a car accident in 2016. He has 1 son, no mention of daughters

    posted by Judy Hoskins

    Wednesday, 10/27/2021

  • The Major General Eric Hill I have been communicating with said his wife died in a car accident in 2016. He has 1 son, no mention of daughters

    posted by Judy Hoskins

    Wednesday, 10/27/2021

  • He is not who he says he is. He told me that he lost his wife and daughters in a car accident. He says he is in Damascus Syria on some kind of mission. I think something should be done about these scammers. He is already planning to ask me out.

    posted by Nina Carter

    Tuesday, 10/12/2021

  • Be careful, people are using this man's information and saying his wife and daughter passed away from a car accident years ago. Plus, saying his son's name is different than above and is 17 years old. Also every time I ask a question about his past, he says different things than listed above. Identity theft of a General in the military should be a nice fine and jail time. He uses Hangout for a messenger.

    posted by Stephanie Halverson

    Saturday, 08/07/2021

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.