05/23/2012 11:30 am ET Updated Jul 23, 2012

Dads of Valor

I often say that we tend to do the least for those who do the most for us. You profusely thank your barista for making you a cup of coffee in the morning, but when was the last time you thanked one of your parents for raising you?

A perfect example of how this plays out is with our nation's military dads. These are men who make incredible sacrifices for both their families and our nation. While most dads have the ability to come home every night to their children, these dads have to spend agonizing periods of time on the other side of the world, often in dangerous situations, waiting for a precious moment when they can squeeze in a pixelated video call with their family back home. And while most dads enjoy the wonderful freedoms this nation provides for our families, these dads are overseas ensuring that we can keep them.

For these reasons, and many more, National Fatherhood Initiative honors military dads and their families each year with the Military Fatherhood Award™. Each year, the award is given to a military dad who displays an ongoing commitment and dedication to his children, makes extraordinary efforts to father from a distance when deployed, successfully balances military and family life, and makes an effort to mentor other military fathers and/or military children who are separated from their fathers.

This year, NFI received over 450 nominations from the wives, children, friends and colleagues of our nation's military dads, and has narrowed them down to the following three exemplary finalists:

-- 1st Lieutenant William Edwards, U.S. Army - Serving at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Lt. Edwards uses his musical and cinematic talents to stay connected with his four children before, during and after his deployments. He helps other military dads stay connected to their children by making special effects-filled action/comedy films with them that they can send back home. He is involved in all kinds of activities with his children and is intentional in teaching his children the values they need to succeed in life.

-- Senior Airman Jonathan Jackson, U.S. Air Force - Serving at Travis Air Force Base, California, SRA Jackson has fostered six children and reunited four of those children with their natural birth parents after assisting their families with rehabilitation from substance abuse and parental neglect. He adopted his two sons out of foster care. He is also exemplary in his military service: the 6th Air Refueling Squadron recognized SRA Jackson as their 2011 Warrior of the Year and 2011 Airman of the Year.

-- Lieutenant Dennis Kelly, U.S. Navy - Serving at Camp Pendleton, California, Lt. Kelly made over 60 videos through United Through Reading to stay connected to his five children during his deployments. While home, he spends plenty of one-on-one time with his children, catering to their own unique interests. While being a great dad to his own kids, he strives to enrich the lives of other military dads by serving as a facilitator of NFI's 24/7 Dad™ and Doctor Dad™ programs, as well as several other family-strengthening programs.

Details of each finalist's nomination can be read on NFI's website.

To bring as much exposure as possible to these families' stories of courage and sacrifice, we open the selection of the winner to the public on National Fatherhood Initiative's Facebook page. Each family has submitted a short home video of why they think their dad should receive the award. Voters can watch the videos and cast their vote every day through noon on May 25. Shortly thereafter, NFI will announce the winner, then head to the winner's base in June, just in time for Father's Day, for the award presentation.

Your vote is a simple way that you can take the time to say "thank you" to our nation's military dads. After all they do for us, it is the least we can do for them.