Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Honor of Army Dads

I was waiting on a flight at Dallas/Fort Worth airport several years ago and remember seeing a young Soldier get off the plane at my gate. He stepped into the waiting area, looked around anxiously, and then ran toward a young woman holding an infant. As they embraced and she lifted the baby to hand him to the Soldier, I realized that this young man was seeing his baby, his son, for the very first time. I know this scene is played out across our Army all the time, but it brought tears to my eyes to watch their reunion. This young Family stays with me as a reminder of what our Soldiers give up in the cause of freedom.

As Father’s Day came and went this year and we celebrated the dad in our Family, I couldn't help but think about all the Army dads out there who do such an amazing job of balancing family and work.

Having watched my husband of 15+ years, the past 9+ of those as a dad, I have seen how difficult it can be to be a great Soldier and a great Dad. It takes constant practice, endless perseverance, and boundless patience. He is amazing at it and I am thankful each day for his love and leadership in our family, but I think he’d be the first to tell you that it’s no easy task.

Any Army Family can tell you that being in the Army is not like many other jobs. In fact, "job" doesn't quite cover it. "Career" or "lifestyle" come closer, but it's an all-consuming life choice to be an American Soldier. Work days are long and hard, field exercises take dads away from their homes for weeks at a time, and ... to quote one of my favorite Toby Keith country songs about the American Soldier, "... I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend's been too strong ... " Many of the everyday liberties taken by workers all across our country (like calling in sick or showing up late) are not an option for our Soldiers.

Army training and combat operations trump all other events. Believe it or not, this is not a concept that makes me angry or bitter. I get it. I can clearly see how ensuring that our combat teams are prepared for war and keeping them focused and ready during combat operations is key and fundamental. Got that. What are a little harder to swallow are the missed births, first words, high school graduation ceremonies, and other life events. I intellectually understand why this happens, but emotionally, my heart breaks for these dads who miss so much. (Quick note: I am aware of the sacrifices made by our Army moms as well … and dual military Families have all of these issues two-fold … but today I want to focus on the dads in the Family.)

Army dads have a supreme mission … to perform well as a Soldier and to support a Family. Being gone from the home for extended periods of time can make it hard to keep ‘the pulse’ of what is happening, but I have seen countless success stories … dads who remain close to their kids, stay involved in the Family, and keep their marriage top priority. To these dads, I give my thanks and gratitude.

For every Soldier-dad who has heard the words, “Daddy, when are you coming home?” I want to say THANK YOU. Thank you for your courage, strength, and sacrifice. Thank you for serving your country even when it is not convenient for your own family. Thank you for loving your children enough to show them the right way to do things, even when it’s not the easy way. Thank you for dealing with the tough times in order to make our lives safe and free here at home. When that little dagger stabs you in the heart at the sound of “I miss you so much,” please know that you are appreciated and loved.

For their endless patience and love, and in honor of their sacrifice and courage, Army Dads are my heroes!

Also, to Army dads … if you haven’t seen the video for the song “Price of Peace,” you simply must see it. It describes a daughter’s perspective on her dad going to war. Even more powerful is the fact that the song was written by a young girl whose Dad serves in the Reserves and is sung by this talented young girl along with her sister. Good stuff.



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