The men and women who serve in our military make tremendous sacrifices. But that's a general statement. It's easy to say. It doesn't make us think that hard. It doesn't help us understand what those sacrifices really are.
The perspectives of two Navy men offered on Tokoni about fatherhood make painfully clear that the sacrifices are both big and small. And not just on Father's Day, but each and every day they are away from their families.
Little Moments in Life
This isn't a story about experience, this is a story about missed experiences.
I left February 20 to serve my country on my second tour, the difference between this time and when I left in November of 2005, is that I am leaving two kids and a fiance behind. My son was born in November, and it probably was one of the most emotional days of my life. Leaving them was hard...and now, almost four months later, I have visited six countries, and traversed almost 12,000 miles of water, but the one thing I miss if anything are my kids and what they are doing. I hear stories, of course, don't get me wrong, and I get pictures all the time. You know, stories like my 3-year-old daughter decided to give herself a haircut, and she looks like a boy now. That happened four days after I left. Or stories like my son is not quite crawling yet, but he is beginning to roll, and rolled himself under a table and got himself stuck. Instead of helping him, my wonderful fiance decided to grab the camera and start taking pictures. Of course he looked thrilled about that.
ArkansasDad's son in a happier moment.
Sometimes when you're out here in the middle of the Persian Gulf, you have to talk to somebody, even if it's thousands of strangers. My fiance told me today that my son is trying to crawl. He is getting up on all fours and starting to rock. Wow, my son is on the verge of crawling, and I'm not there. For some reason that hit me hard, and really rocked my world today. I am missing everything my kids are doing. This is the hardest shit I've ever had to do. I can take the bullets and the blood, but being away from them is horrible.
And TedHontz, a retired navy officer, offered his perspective on being in the military with a family.
This reminds me of the early days of my Navy career--weeks and months of separation from my wife and children, a year in Danang during the Vietnam war. I first met my four-month-old son while on R&R in Hawaii. He was eight months old the next time I saw him. In time, two daughters followed--as did years of sea duty and deployments. Unlike you, most of my regrets are after the fact. I was never bored at sea and I never got enough sleep. I always felt that my job was important. The work was totally consuming. And in those days we didn't have email and phone calls with the family while at sea. In real time the decision to stay in the Navy for a career probably had components of loving the purity of life at sea, and being hooked on the responsibility, excitement and occasional danger. And looking back, there was probably some fear of the unknown looking at life after the Navy. Would I be as successful a civilian as I was as a naval officer? How would I support my growing family? But, as one of my mentors is fond of saying, time only goes in one direction. I can't go back and remake old decisions because I'm a lot smarter now. But I don't regret working hard and doing my best at what I was doing. But like you, I hate that I missed so many family experiences over the years.
Tokoni would like to honor the military fathers who can't be at home with their families this Father's Day. Share your military story with us. Or talk to ArkansasDad about his story