Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 is a day that most Americans know as the day that our 44th President was sworn into office. Of course, I recall the historical and social significance too, but I missed the inaugural speech because this was also the day that my oldest son was born. I “witnessed” the birth via telephone from Iraq. I was 8 months into the deployment, so not only did I miss being in the delivery room, I also missed the morning sickness, the 1st ultrasound and all the other memories that went along with the pregnancy. Hearing my son’s first cries over the telephone and knowing I wouldn’t meet him or hold him for six more weeks was an incredible feeling that I would have to put aside until later. Military fathers know this drill all too well. Missing important, personal moments; delaying or setting aside the emotions of the day until some other, more convenient time -- that’s the selfless part of serving.
Father’s Day is a recognition for fathers across the world but a special one for military fathers. My story of missing the birth of my first son is not unique; rather it is a sacrifice shared by nearly every father in the military. Whether on a submarine or a ship at sea, flying the skies or patrolling the lands of a distant outpost in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, American military fathers have missed more than their fair share of important personal moments. Families have sacrificed, too. Countless fathers have missed first steps, first days of school, first dates and graduations. We have missed those times when dads are needed to offer advice or understanding. Wounded Warriors have long had a saying that “it’s not about what you have lost; it’s about what you have left."
This Father’s Day, I simply encourage every family, but especially military, veteran and survivor families, to spend quality time together. Acknowledge the difficulty of all the moments missed; then immediately begin to focus on all the possibilities that are left. Knowing the challenges of being away for extended periods of time makes us all infinitely more grateful for the days we have together. Seize this Father’s Day and every day to unpack those special moments you previously set aside – now’s the time!