March 17, 2003
Duluth sailor knows the drill
By Chuck Frederick
He’s hardly a poster boy for “America’s
Fighting Forces,” but West Duluth’s David Haugen is
no less a member of their ranks.
He doesn’t wear camouflage or carry a gun.
Instead, he dons scrubs and wields a drill for the Navy. The 1991
Denfeld graduate is aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft
carrier in the Persian Gulf poised for a possible attack against
Haugen, a graduate of the University of Minnesota
Duluth, plays a role in the military that’s as vital as many
but is easy to overlook or take for granted.
He’s a dentist.
“The motto here is, ‘If you can’t
bite, you can’t fight,’” Haugen, 30, said in a
News Tribune interview conducted via e-mail.
“I look at it this way,” he wrote.
“If that pilot is up there flying a mission and he has a toothache
(or other) problem, he isn’t able to do his job at 100 percent.
That’s where the dentist plays a crucial role, making sure
everyone is dentally ready.”
The Abraham Lincoln has about 5,000 crew members
on board. The ship’s dental office — with three dentists,
three cleaning technicians, an oral surgeon and a hygienist —
sees about 100 of them every day. Hours are long. Haugen said he
works as many as 10 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week.
“It’s like being the dentist of a
small city,” he wrote.
Which probably makes for a good fit. If Duluth
and its West Duluth neighborhood can be considered small, then Haugen
hails from a small town and looks forward to private practice in
a small town — if war doesn’t change everything.
Haugen signed up for three years of active duty
in exchange for dental school at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
His three years are up in June. But the tuition-for-service arrangement
also included five years of service in the Navy reserves. With so
much uncertainty around the globe, how those five years play out
is anyone’s guess.
“Everything is really up in the air,”
said Haugen’s wife, Holly, a dental assistant. The couple
has two sons, Zachery, 7, and Sebastian, 2.
“I try not to focus on the world events
too much or think about it too much,” said Holly, who grew
up in Morgan Park and whose family lives in Superior. “That
would make the time he’s away really seem long.”
The Haugens last saw each other in June, eight
months ago. He used to call every week, but tightening security
has limited that. He hasn’t telephoned in more than a month.
Holly Haugen fears daily e-mail letters from her husband also will
be restricted soon.
Both David and Holly Haugen say they are trying
to stay busy until they can be together again and go house hunting,
or to some of Zachery’s hockey games or soccer games, or until
they can go to Mass again at St. James Catholic Church.
In addition to working, David Haugen reads, listens
to music, watches movies, hosts a radio show for his shipmates and
exercises. He’s lost 10 pounds since leaving Duluth.
“In your off time, you try not to think
about it too much. The time will just eat away at you,” Haugen
wrote. “When I left, my boys had just turned 2 and 7.... I
just received a current picture of them and I can’t believe
how fast they grow.
“I don’t know when I’ll see
them again,” he wrote. “I have been extended out here
past my due date with no return in sight.”
Holly Haugen volunteers in Zachery’s classroom
and in the St. James school cafeteria. Every night, she and her
boys pray together for peace and for Daddy to come home soon. They
pray the rosary. Then they kiss good night the two pictures of David
that Holly keeps next to her bed.
“Family, friends and faith have helped me
tremendously,” Holly Haugen said. “He’s been gone
so long. There’s got to be light at the end of the tunnel