Eric Hedeen                                                                                                                  by Kevin Hedeen

Will Rogers once said, “Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth.”  My brother Eric and the 2 crewmen who died with him proved that true. 

As the youngest of 4 kids, he was always the baby of the family.  Eric was born in 1963 and being the oldest by 7 years (Kevin), I knew Eric best as the kid brother.  I regret never getting to know Eric as a man. 

As a young child, something about the old Adam’s Family butler “Lurch” captivated Eric’s attention, but he could not pronounce the ‘L’.  From then on, he became known to the family as “Urch”.  This family nickname stuck with him his whole life. 

Our sister Valerie recalls when early 1970s 4-H Eric decided to raise lamb to be sold at Chelan County fair.  Many months passed attempting to put weight on what he thought was a wether.  At the fair Lt. Fuzz was found to be of inadequate weight to compete.  Eric was frustrated until someone discovered his sheep was actually a ewe.  After talking with the family that sold Lt. Fuzz to him as a lamb it was determined he had a far more valuable commodity; the lamb had been a twin from a line of twins, increasing the likelihood of her bearing twins.  She was sold at a far higher price than would have been obtained from sale at the fair.


As the youngest, Eric endured teasing from his older brothers.  Our Jr. High gave out a DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) award for “Excellence in History”.  I won the award and told the next oldest brother (Kurt) it was now a family tradition and he had to win it.  Kurt won when he went through school.  We then told Eric that he had to uphold the now long-standing, family tradition.  We thought we were teasing him, but he ended coming through and winning it.

After all these years, my most vivid memories of Eric were his wry grin and his love of laughter.  I remember when he earned the moniker “Kneecap” while pheasant hunting with my high school friends for boasting he could go through barb wire fencing much easier than us older guys.  As a kid, he wrestled with irrigation in the orchard that was almost too big for him to handle.  Our bike race down Joe Miller Road resulted in his broken arm when he got into soft gravel.  He started pushing his bike home with the broken arm until I was able to get help and take over for him.  For some unknown reason growing up, he loved the Detroit Lions.  As a young child, he even had a stuffed lion he named “Landry” after a Detroit Lion quarterback.  Our bad form diving competitions in the pool our dad installed after years of kids begging were epic.  Year round orchard work in temps ranging from 20 degrees to 100+, Search and Rescue, Washington State Cougar, fraternity president, ROTC, architecture major, marriage, and the USAF were a short life well lived. 

Our dad was a fighter pilot in the USAF and a huge history buff.  Our house was always full of history books and all of us were voracious readers.  His personal library was full of books on aviation, so Eric probably caught the flying bug from my father.  We boys built many dozens of plastic and balsa wood models; primarily WW2 aircraft and can to this day recognize military airplane silhouettes on sight.  Duty was a word our father used often, as in “Do your duty” and “You have the duty”. 

The one word you use in military flying is duty. It’s your duty. You have no control over outcome, no control over pick-and-choose. It’s duty. Chuck Yeager

   Eric Hedeen did his duty.

A passage from ‘Ripple’ by the Grateful Dead brings my memories full circle:

There is a road, no simple highway    

Between the dawn and the dark of night

And if you go, no one may follow      

That path is for your steps alone. 


Ripple in still water

When there is no pebble tossed

Nor wind to blow


You who choose to lead must follow

But if you fall you fall alone

If you should stand then who’s to guide you?

If I knew the way I would take you home

Eric traveled that road. 
“Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth.”  Eric Hedeen was a hero.