David Hedlund would have looked like a soldier even in civilian clothes. Lean, wiry, piercing eyes…and of course, a buzz cut. He–and a whole lot of other soldiers–boarded the same plane I was flying in late January. I was heading to Alabama for a late-season deer hunt, they were going…well, I didn’t know at first, only that their destination was certainly not as nice as mine.
David was reading an outdoor magazine and seated next to me, so I struck up a conversation about hunting. It ended up lasting the better part of our three-hour flight. We had hunted and fished some of the same territory, talked at length about trout and smallmouth, bucks and bears. By the time the plane touched tarmac, I felt I’d known David for a whole lot longer than I had. I gave him my business card and told him if he ever needed anything to call. He thought it was a big deal I wrote about the stuff he enjoyed. I thought it a very big deal that he was serving the country I love.
I have thought about David often since and included him in my prayers. And the other day, a box hit my doorstep. In it, a flag flown above the camp where David serves in Balad, Iraq. Also a lengthy letter from my friend that told how much he missed home, family, and the natural beauty of his corner of Wisconsin. I made extra time to look out my office window that day, to appreciate the beauty of the woodline behind my own home, to take in the busy work of two robins nest-building under my deck, to listen to the spring peepers in my little pond. I have a friend marking time in a place without such luxuries, and I hope I absorbed enough for the two of us.