The last day of the year is always a time of introspection for me. I think about all the events that transpired in the preceding year, as well as day dream about my ambitions and goals I hope to achieve during the next trip around the sun.
2017 was a good year for me, professionally speaking. I started off the year by finishing the filming of my first TV show, JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald— which would air on History Channel just a few months later. Being a part of this show was an incredible experience for me, and I can’t wait to work on a show or movie again in the future, whether it’s in front of or behind the camera.
I also finished writing my first original screenplay, a television pilot. This may not seem like a big deal, but anyone who has finished a screenplay knows that it’s an enormous undertaking and an achievement to be proud of (I certainly am!).
On the journalism front, I broke the story about the first female Army Ranger at The 75th Ranger Regiment, which made nationwide news. I covered the eviction of the Standing Rock protest camp on location in North Dakota, and the long form article that I wrote about that experience ended up being selected as a Medium.com Editor’s Pick. I also was among the first to report on the addition of a military intelligence battalion to the 75th Ranger Regiment, interviewed one of the first female infantryman in the U.S. Army, and traveled to Los Angeles to provide a behind the scenes look at CBS's new drama SEAL Team.
As many of you know, I closed out the year with an embed assignment with U.S. and Afghan special operations forces in Afghanistan. This was a big step for me as a journalist, and I’m very proud of the dispatches, photographs, and long form analysis that have come from the trip. I’m hoping this was the first trip of many with the U.S. military and their missions around the world.
I would be remiss to not mention my editors at Task & Purpose— much of my work this year would not be what it was without their help and guidance. I’m a better journalist because of folks like Lauren K. and Aaron.
It was somewhat of a mixed bag in my personal life this year. We welcomed a new nephew to the family, my brother and his wife’s first; and a new niece from my brother-in-law and his wife— their first as well.
My daughter turned three years old in August, and I'm happy to report that she is healthy, smart, and growing fast. My sister Molly joined the Army after graduating high school and, in one of the proudest moments of my year, I was able to attend her Basic Combat Training graduation in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. She’s most recently finished the EMT phase of her training as a combat medic down in San Antonio, Texas.
I was also able to attend my friend’s bachelor party in Las Vegas only a week after the deadly mass murder that happened there. Of course it was awesome to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of a man I have known since I was a young kid, but it also felt good to go and support the city of Las Vegas after such a horrific attack.
On a somber note, I lost two old friends this year, Caleb Service and Kevin Ryan. They were young men who devoted their life to serving our country and were taken far too soon. My thoughts have been with their loved ones during this holiday season.
I also said goodbye to my dad, Marty Skovlund Sr., who fought valiantly all the way to the end of his struggle with ALS at the age of 52. This was the third family member I have lost to this disease, and I hope it’s the last. There is no cure for ALS at this time, and the average lifespan after diagnosis is only 3-5 years. My dad made it 10 months.
Despite my current profession, I am unable to capture how much I miss my dad with words alone.
After my dad’s passing, Lauren and I made the decision to move back to the northeast to be closer to her family. It was hard to say goodbye to all of the family and friends that supported me through one of the toughest years of my life, but we have fallen in love with our new home town— Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The move has led to my wife Lauren finding and accepting a position at her dream job, where she will be an interior designer for a commercial design company in Massachusetts!
I of course can’t summarize 2017 without mentioning the incredible season the Minnesota Vikings have had. This is the first football season I haven’t been able to share with my dad, but as of today they clinched the #2 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs. That leads me to my hopes for 2018, and chief among them, I’m really pulling for the Vikings' first Super Bowl win (and at their home stadium, no less)!
I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and improve as a journalist, writer, and photographer this year. I’m fortunate to work in a profession that I love and that constantly challenges me, and I can’t wait to see where my work leads me next.
Lauren and I are still getting settled in New Hampshire, and are having fun exploring our new surroundings and catching up with old friends (and hopefully making new ones too!). We are attending weddings in Duluth, Minnesota and the Dominican Republic this year, and I’m looking forward to both.
After my sister finishes her medic training, she will be heading to airborne school. I can't wait to pinning her wings on, and I hope my dad is able to see that moment and reflect on the fact three of his children became bonafide paratroopers in the U.S. Army.
No matter the ups or downs, here’s to 2018 and whatever it may bring. Happy New Year to all of my friends, family, and supporters!