After 15 years in the Army, I’ve held so many titles...
They all have importance, and not all in that order. Being a dad while also serving in the military is definitely a test of patience and organization. It’s been a transition from taking care of my kids at home, to taking care of my kids at work—just a lot older with more money to make bad decisions with.
It is taxing and trying, but worth it. Watching soldiers grow from young people with no real direction in life to making steady career and college decisions in and out of the service is the best feeling I’ve ever had.
Not all of them make it. Sometimes, it feels like they are newly hatched turtles scrambling to make it to the ocean. With the seagulls of bad life decisions and a failed out-processing system pecking them off the sand, there is little we can do but try to help them get to the water.
Being a dad gives you a sense of perspective. This soldier is someone’s son or daughter and that parent’s only wish is to see them succeed in life. Though they may have not set them up with the skills to be that success story, which is something you may realize about your own parents once you are in your thirties, it’s up to us to do our best to help guide them on that path.
So many soldiers come to us to develop these life skills, and just as we pass on what we know for our own kids, it’s so important to take that mindset with soldiers. It’s true about all the little hurdles our soldiers face. Even with things that these young men and women find stupid, like buying a first car.
My NCO took me to the dealership, though I was embarrassed to have him there with me, I was grateful after when I walked out with a truck that I wanted without any of the stupid things 20-year-old me would have added. Don’t get me wrong, my NCO was not soft by any means. I spent plenty of time in the front leaning rest and carrying water jugs for being an idiot.
The things I remember about him the most though were the dealership and how he helped me move out of my house when my first wife and I split. Sounds pretty fatherly to me. Over the last 15 years, I have watched my proverbial kids go on to be medics, nurses, police officers, lawyers, businessmen, and in one case, a biologist.
Some stay in and that’s great too. I only hope I can raise my own children to be like some of these young men and women one day, emphasis on some. Regardless, I am proud of all of them.