Bakken injured in Afghanistan
It’s the phone call parents of military personnel never want to receive.
A loved one has been killed or injured in combat.
On May 28, Steve Bakken was scrambling some eggs for lunch.
The telephone rings and it’s his son, 22-year-old Matt Bakken, calling from Afghanistan.
Steve says Matt told him twice to sit down because he had something to tell him.
“I thought there would be words coming out of his mouth that would haunt and hurt me,” says Steve. “I was dripping with dread.”
Bakken was a passenger in one of two military vehicles traveling on “Utah Road” on a mission to Dorath, Afghanistan, when they were attacked by Taliban forces.
A bomb and gunfire left Matt and four others wounded.
Steve says his son told him his left hand was covered with blood. He didn’t know if he had been shot or struck by shrapnel from a bomb.
“Because he’s a medic he was in the rear vehicle. That saved his life. He was lucky,” Steve says.
Matt told his dad he was OK and described the injuries as minor and there was nothing to worry about.
The other four soldiers had to be airlifted out. Two were treated in Afghanistan and the others brought back to the United States.The telephone conversation lasted less than one minute and Steve then began calling family members.
The first was his wife, Linda, a music teacher in the Granada-Huntley-East Chain School District.
Linda says she was at the East Chain Elementary School and on lunch break when someone told her she had a phone call from her husband.
“Luckily I was at work. I knew if I went home I would fall apart, so I thought it would be a good idea to stay at work,” she says.
Although they spent most of the day worrying about their son, the Bakkens realize that Matt was fortunate he was not seriously hurt.
“God’s hand of protection was around him. We also have such prayer warriors — people who pray for him. I think that has really helped him,” Linda says.
After nearly 30 hours since hearing from Matt, the Bakkens still weren’t sure what had happened.
And, a telephone call from Army officials in Alaska — where Matt was stationed — didn’t clear things up. In fact, it may have created more confusion.
Linda says she was told that Matt sustained injuries during an enemy attack, but it was to his right hand.
On May 30, Matt called home and set the record straight. It was his left hand that was injured by gunfire.
“Because he’s lefthanded I asked him if he had someone patch him up. He said, ‘No. I did it myself,'” says Linda.
Matt didn’t just call home to tell his parents that he was fine and not to worry.
He wanted to wish his mother a happy birthday.
“He gave me flowers. He had his dad get them for me,” says Linda. “That was very sweet of him. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.”
Ironically, that same day Linda delivered some quilts to a Mankato business that ships them to wounded soldiers in the U.S. and abroad.
The seven quilts were made by Blue Earth Valley Quilters and a quilting group at Granada-Huntley-East Chain.
“When I dropped off the quilts it really hit home, sending something to a wounded soldier. This is the real thing and we shouldn’t forget them,” says Linda.
Matt has been in Afghanistan since Feb. 19 and is scheduled to come home next February.
“I expect to see him around Valentine’s Day, if not sooner,” Steve says.
Matt doesn’t tell his parents much about his experiences in Afghanistan.
Of the attack that occurred around 7 a.m., Steve says his son offered little detail.
“We took care of the situation,” is all he told his dad.
Steve knows that Matt lives high in the mountains along the Pakistan border, about 60 miles from where Osama Bin Laden was last known to be.
“It’s a makeshift camp, real primitive. They have camels, sheep and donkeys that wander in and out of the camp,” he says.
No one knows whether Matt’s tour of duty in Afghanistan will change him mentally and emotionally. Physically, he could lose a small part of his middle finger.
However, there are some things that are certain.
When Matt returns home he’ll see that his cross country T-shirt and military dog tags are still tied to a maple tree he planted when he was 18 years old.
There will be a blue star hanging in a front window — symbolizing that a military service member in the family is currently on active duty.
He’ll be greeted by many well-wishers and of course — his dad; mom; sister, Kate; brother, Ted; and two cats, Charcoal and Telly.