In considering what it is like to be an “Army Dad”, the first thing that comes to mind is this: Unlike many of my fellow soldiers, I was fortunate enough to be present at the birth of both of our sons. I was even given the terrifying privilege of participating in the delivery. Few things encountered while serving in the Army can compare to that level of performance anxiety, friend.
My wife has served in the Army since she was seventeen years old. SEVENTEEN! My oldest son is now twenty-one and I try to imagine him (or even myself) far from home and family at that tender age. The thought shakes me.
Most significant to me, when considering what it has been like to be a military dad, is this- I never had to search far for models of good behavior. Between my wife, who so adroitly performed both roles while I was deployed, and the people serving with me, I was constantly exposed to parents doing the right thing, making their best way. I was daily witness to fathers struggling to protect and guide their children as they went about the work of protecting a nation.
My workplaces were the ER and the Field Hospital, environments known for their black humor and high anxiety. Strangely and frequently though, quiet conversations arose around the break areas and over chow concerning calls back home. We all leaned into the stories of the “latest from home”. Lots of laughs, some tears, and glowing pride poured forth from my fellow soldiers. Sometimes even recollections of their own fathers laced with complaints about how it is “all different now” made it into the weave.
Relying heavily on my experiences with both my grandfathers who helped raise me, I was determined to parent with dedication and devotion (and discipline) while serving. More than anything else, I want for my sons a deep and abiding love of what I see in my fellow soldiers but especially in their mother… duty, honor, and sacrifice. “Deeds not words” she tells me, “Lead by example, Steve”. I have tried to channel the best from all who guided me and incorporate those wonderful examples of character into my version of “Dad”. Until they are men out in the world and judged on their own, I cannot know if I was successful.
Truth be told, I am reassessing as I go along. Since there are no FMs or TMs currently available offering tasks, conditions and standards- that is the best I can do. Thank you, Grandpas, Mom, Jennifer, Uncle Sam, for teaching me to rely on lessons learned.