ELK POINT, S.D. - Mornings like Wednesday kept the fire burning for U.S. Army Capt. Scott Heeren in his latest tour of duty near Bagram, Afghanistan.
He awoke and saw children Trevor and Josie out the door, on their way to the first day of school at Elk Point-Jefferson. Dad hopped in his golf cart, cruised to the golf course.
He played behind three older men touring Elk Point Country Club. "Years ago I would have been irritated, sitting there waiting," said Heeren, 40. "Now? No problem. You don't know how good you have it."
Heeren spent the past year or so helping direct brave and dedicated soldiers in a variety of combat patrol exercises and security detail. Their mission: Prevent enemy attacks at Bagram Airfield.
His mission this morning? Get the club head going in the right direction.
"We also worked with the Afghanistan National Police and the Afghanistan National Army," said Heeren, who did a tour of duty in Iraq in 2007-08.
Heeren said he believes U.S. personnel are putting Afghanis on the path to providing their own security. "We have so many wonderful soldiers working very hard over there," he said.
Time will tell.
Time. Heeren missed it overseas. Time home, at least. He sat on a bus ready to depart the U.S. last fall when his phone battery sputtered. He stayed on the line attempting to hear if Josie, then a seventh-grader, qualified for the South Dakota High School state cross country meet. She did.
This year he and wife Penny can watch Trevor and Josie run, starting with the Huskies' first meet in a matter of days.
"I'm not at all sentimental," Scott Heeren said. "But I am looking forward to watching the kids run this year. I missed all of that last year. I'm going to everything I can this year."
He's also making time for Charlie Boys and schooners at Morningside's Miles Inn. He and fellow soldiers from Sioux City, South Sioux City and Hinton are also catching up on all things Bob Roe's Point After, La Juanita's and Milwaukee Wiener House.
You have free articles remaining.
"You do miss things like that," Heeren said. "We talk about them overseas."
On Wednesday at noon, it was a grilled burger in Moville, courtesy of his older brother, Steve Heeren.
Before Heeren returns to work full-time on Sept. 1 in recruiting/retention for the Iowa Army National Guard, he'll make time for golf. He grew up playing at Floyd Park Golf Course in Sioux City and the only time he didn't consistently tour the links came during two one-year deployments.
Actually, that's not entirely true. Heeren helped create a floating green of plywood and Styrofoam while stationed in Iraq. He met golf icons Tom Watson, David Feherty, Butch Harmon and Tom Lehman when they dedicated a driving range at Camp Victory.
This year? Heeren got some artificial turf from a United Arab Emirates soccer field that was being torn up and replaced. He put together a net and made it a makeshift hitting area. Callaway, the giant golf manufacturer, sent clubs and balls for soldiers to use.
Heeren made a sign, and called the area "Bagram Country Club."
"I remember looking on the Internet to see how many golf courses there are in Afghanistan," he said with a chuckle. "There is one, at Kabul. If I could have, I would have tried to get there to play."
Instead, he hit into a net at Bagram two to three times per day.
"And every day, I thought about the golf course back home," he said.
On Wednesday he waited patiently for the threesome ahead of him at his home course. The temperature? Ideal. Winds? Calm. The kids were back at school and all was quiet.
Scott Heeren's biggest decision involved which iron to use.
He knows how fortunate he is.