“Yes, when he was 2.5 he was doing that too,” my husband said to me one day when we were watching our children play. He was talking about our oldest when he was the same age as his little brother.
“No, he didn’t. You were deployed remember?”
This kind of conversation happens often at our house. Memory is an interesting thing. We never fully remember the way things really were. In my husband’s case, he just wasn’t there for a lot of what happened during my children’s earlier years.
He was deployed. Away from home serving his country.
My husband is a wonderful father. I knew he would be from the first week that I met him. I saw how he talked about children, how he showed me photos of his niece that he kept in his wallet. He was a good uncle then and I knew he would make a great father in the future.
We became parents in 2004 and I was proven right. From the start, he knew just what to do. He and my son bonded right away and our parenting journey was off to a great start.
13 months later we were saying goodbye and starting our military journey.
One that would take this great father away from his children for months on end. He would end up missing so much. So so much.
He missed when my son started to walk. I filmed it and sent it to him in Germany. He missed his 2nd birthday by a month so we celebrated that one early. He missed his 3rd birthday and his 5th birthday and his 9th birthday. He missed the birth of his 2nd little boy and his whole first year. He missed me figuring out how to be a mom to two. He missed our son starting preschool and learning to talk in sentences. He missed potty training and Christmas and summers. He missed a lot of those early years, ones that we will never get back. As I look back over the years I know this is a part of what we signed up for.
When you join the military, you are not only signing up to defend your country but you are also signing up for months without your family.
You are signing up to say that you will miss birthdays and anniversaries and births and all the firsts that most Dad’s get to be around for. As heartbreaking as missing these moments are, you know this is all apart of your job.
This father’s day I can’t help but think of my husband and all the other dads that have missed so much over the years. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to say goodbye to my son at three weeks and not see him again until he was 11 months old. One letter my husband wrote to me during that time talked about how weird it was to have two boys and love them both so much but to only really know one of them.
That’s just how it is sometimes. Some dads don’t get to meet their children until they are crawling. Others miss out on kindergarten and some will watch their son or daughter graduate from high school on a video.
These men know this when they sign up for the military but it doesn’t make going through it any easier.
Let’s remember these fathers this Father’s Day. Let’s remember what they have given up over the years to serve our country. Let’s never forget about their children and the sacrifices they make going through their lives without him by their side for all the moments and milestones they go through.
My husband is in a place in his career where he won’t have too many more times where he will be away from us. This is freeing and I am looking forward to our family always having him there. However, I will never forget the years that he wasn’t, what he has missed and what others are missing in the years to come.