MTN. HOME, Ark. A Baxter County Arkansas man is fortunate to be alive after a tractor he was riding in slid off a levee and became submerged in a pond.
Eldon Cooper, 49, is a decorated 19-year military veteran who served in Iraq. But the closest he's come to dying was less than a hundred yards from his house on his 25 acre farm.
"I've had missles, gunfire," he recalled of his time in the service. "One of my trucks got hit by an IED."
Recently Cooper had taken his tractor down to work on a levee at his 12-foot-deep pond. It had been raining heavily, and the edge of the levee gave way, sending the tractor into the pond on its side where the enclosed cab quickly filled up with the 39-degree water.
"The water got up to about right here on me," he said while holding his hand next to his nose. "And then it stopped rising. I had to put my head up to be able to breathe and get my mouth and my nose out of the water. I started to panic just a little bit. I prayed to God for peace and immediately I stopped trying to breathe too hard. I had an air pocket the size of a shoebox."
Eldon was supposed to meet his wife at church, and when he didn't show up, she came home to find his cellphone left behind and the family's indoor dog roaming outdoors.
She called 911 but it would be three-and-a-half hours before Eldon was found in the darkness thanks to another twist of fate.
"The flashers (on the tractor) came on and started blinking," Eldon said. "That's how they found the tractor later on."
By then rescuerers had almost given up.
"They sent the ambulance back because they thought it was going to be a recovery," Eldon said.
"It just worked out in this case where the good guys won," said Baxter Co. Sheriff John Montgomery. "We were able to help save a life. Between our divers and our first responders we were able to free Mr. Cooper and get him out."
A man of faith, Eldon, who suffered only minor injuries, believes God determined that it wasn't his time.
"I'm here for a reason," he said.
And maybe that reason is his role as a veterans advocate where he welcomes veterans to his home to play games, shoot targets, and talk out their problems.
He says that whatever God's plan is...
"He definitely has my attention," Eldon says with a smile. "He definitely has my attention."