COTTAGE GROVE - On the Fourth of July, while many will be grilling, boating or watching fireworks, Heather Hedden will be spending her last full day with her family before deploying to Kuwait.
Hedden, of Hastings, is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve. June 29, she led a 5K run that was organized in her honor by the Cottage Grove Random Runners.
More than a dozen runners, some waving miniature American flags, took off at 7:30 a.m. from Caribou Coffee in Cottage Grove and ran across the Sieben Bridge to Hamlet Park.
Hedden, 44, isn’t one to call attention to herself. Duty calls; she goes. She’s served in the military for 17 years, so she knows the drill.
“You have to be mentally and physically fit,” she said, “and ready at a moment’s notice for any kind of changes that might come up on your orders for deployment."
While they get the same training as active duty soldiers, reservists can attend school or live at home until they’re needed. They maintain readiness through training drills one weekend per month and two weeks per year.
“We deal with having to live our civilian life and live the military life at the same time,” Hedden said.
She did a year’s tour in Afghanistan in 2013. She describes it as “Very interesting. Very hot.”
If leaving her friends and family is difficult, coming back and readjusting to civilian life has its own challenges.
“Just because you’re going (on active duty) doesn’t mean your family doesn’t grow or change while you’re gone,” Hedden said. “You don’t necessarily know these things until you get back and you've been integrated for a month or two months. Six months to a year later, you’re still re-learning your family.”
She was born in Golden Valley and attended Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.
Prior to deployment, she’s been busy ensuring that her house and vehicle are in good repair so that her wife, Jerilynn, isn’t burdened with these chores.
“You have to make sure you have your family ducks in a row,” Hedden said. “All your little things that might go wrong while you’re gone, from people breaking into your house to the furnace going out to the car breaking down for your spouse.”