Although the Wisconsin Badgers slammed the Purdue Boilermakers 41 to 10 Saturday, Sept. 21, the 80,000 fans watching the game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison will most remember an event that occurred during an extended time out.
As often happens at Badger games, a member of the military is honored. This time, 13-year-old Bella Lund made her way onto the field, decked out in Badger gear, as the announcer said she was being singled out because her mother, a veterinarian, U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Jane Renee Lund, of Madison, was deployed in Afghanistan.
At that moment, Dr. Lund appeared from the other side of the field. Bella had no idea her mom had returned from overseas. Mother and daughter ran toward one another, embraced, and tears flowed. Many folks in the crowd were also teary eyed as they watched the reunion on the jumbotron. Millions more have watched viral videos of the event.
"It was the idea of a friend; we thought it would be a nice surprise," says Dr. Lund. "I had no idea that this would go viral."
Lund, 36, says the last time she'd spoken to her daughter she told her she was coming home soon, but she didn't know when.
"I don't know how to describe the feeling," she says, explaining that she didn't even hear the wildly cheering crowd as she spotted her daughter for the first time in six months.
As thrilling as seeing her Bella was, and as happy as Lund is to be home, she concedes that she left a bit of her heart in Afghanistan.
"People view the country as a place where there is no vision for the future," she says. "It's true that what people there know may be limited, but they are just like everyone else on the planet, wanting a better future for their own families."
Toward the end of her deployment, Lund worked at a level three veterinary hospital caring for military working dogs. She explains that just as is the case in human military medicine, veterinary hospitals range from immediate triage care (level one) to hospitals dogs can be flown to for treatment. She compares these hospitals to emergency veterinary facilities in the U.S.
"For elective surgeries, dogs are typically flown back to the U.S., but we can handle most emergencies," she says.
Lund stands in awe of capabilities of military dogs.
"I was fortunate enough to watch them train," she says. "Unfortunately, in a place like Afghanistan, we worry about IED's (improvised explosive devises). The dogs effectively signal on them and save a lot of lives. Worst case scenario, dogs end up sacrificing their lives to save the soldiers. That does happen. How can you not be impressed with these dogs?"
Lund also worked a part of a government-sponsored agriculture program to assist local villagers. She taught locals how to better raise and care for farm animals.
While she was thrilled at the prospects of returning home, Lund says, "I made close ties with a lot of Afghans, and it was really difficult to just walk away from them. Working side-by-side with veterinary colleagues and medical doctors -- who could make a whole lot more money in the states -- was inspiring. People are helping because they want to make the world a better place."
She doesn't offer herself a pat on the back, but Lund is among those who simply want to serve others. Given the opportunity -- either with the military or as a private citizen -- Lund said she'd welcome the opportunity to continue to help in Afghanistan.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)
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