He wakes up early, leaving his sleeping children. He has to get to work.
He puts on his uniform and stares at the calendar, they were running out of days.
He knows he has to go, he knows this is his duty, but saying goodbye to those kids isn’t going to be easy.
He packs his bag and sees his wife crying. He wishes this wasn’t going to be so hard for her. He never thought she would have to go through so many parenting seasons alone.
He promises to write. He promises to call. He hopes he won’t be forgotten.
And then it is time to say goodbye…
He hugs those boys and knows how much they will grow when he is gone. He tries not to think about that, but it is right there in his mind. Being away for so many months at a time is a part of this life that makes everything so hard.
He has a sense of duty to his country. To go. To fight. To make a difference.
He has a sense of duty to his family. To his wife. To his kids.
And sometimes, he can’t do both at the same time. Sometimes he has to go away, and do his job, and try to be there for his family across the miles.
And other times he does get to be home. To make memories. To be able to be a dad in person, not just on a screen.
He wonders if his kids will remember this. He wonders if they will hate him for leaving because they don’t understand. He wonders if things will be weird when he gets back home.
And after months away, he struggles. He loves his kids but he doesn’t know them like he would if he never went away. He loves his family but being so far from home is so hard.
He focuses on the job, on the mission, on his duty. He tries not to dwell on what he is missing but on what he is helping to protect. He tries every day to be the best soldier he can knowing he also needs to be the best father he can be at the same time.
And time goes by…he misses those kids. He misses so much. The first steps, the first words, the first moments. He hopes he doesn’t miss much more, but with years left serving in the military, he knows he might.
And then it is time to go home. To get out of this place, and be back where he belongs. With his wife, and his kids. But he worries.
Has he been gone too long? Will his three-year-old remember the trips to the park before he left? Will the one-year-old bond with him as his brother did? Will his wife be okay after so many months of solo parenting?
And the plane lands and the deployment is over. He sees them, right away. She is wearing a blue dress, and the boys match one another. His oldest is holding a sign. He can’t wait for the moment he can hug and kiss all of them.
But they have to wait and he has to stay stoic. He sees his family but he can’t crack a smile. Not yet.
Then it is time, they are free to go and he runs to her and the boys. And they hug and kiss and all feels right in the world. Those boys, those kids, they have missed him so much but he is back.
And they drive home together and everything is different at home. And yet, nothing is different. This is his family and they still love him so much. As the days pass, there might be struggles, but he is home, where his heart is.
He isn’t used to the new bedtime. He isn’t used to a toddler. He isn’t used to this new normal. But they will work through everything.
And this soldier, he may have to deploy again, and there might be more times apart. But no matter where he goes or how far away he might be, these are his kids and they will always love him.