Did you know April was Month of the Military Child? I’ll be honest; it didn’t dawn on me until yesterday. I can understand if you forgot, or didn’t notice. It’s easy, after all, with last-minute taskers, performance reports to write, doing the daily tasks asked of us – a lot of times I think these recognition months become white noise. You hear it, but you really don’t.
It’s a shame, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped in public – just so they could say, “Thank you for what you do.” But how many times have I thanked my daughter for her service?
I tell her I love her every day; give her parental support she deserves, but I don’t think I’ve ever thanked her for her sacrifice.
I realize she is only 3 years old, but in those few, short years she didn’t have a choice in joining a military family.
During the first few months of her life I was only able to be with her for a couple weeks.
While my wife was visiting the United States from Royal Air Force Alconbury, England, where we were stationed, a serious pregnancy complication forced her into the hospital. Kaitlynn was born two and a half months earlier than planned, and I was seven time zones away.
The unit leadership I served under was absolutely great at getting me back to New Mexico to see my 2-pound, 6-ounce baby girl, but, of course, leave doesn’t last forever, and I had a commitment to serve.
My daughter, still stuck in the intensive care unit, would have to stay there with her mother until she was strong enough to be discharged and old enough to get a flu shot, before she could fly to the United Kingdom.
This was my first real taste of what sacrifice is to the military family. Sure, my wife and I have missed birthdays, holidays, high school reunions, and even funerals, but this was different. This was the first time my sacrifice was shared by someone who didn’t have a say in my decision to serve.
The next time my daughter had to share in that sacrifice she could walk, talk and ask, “Where’s daddy?”
I still remember the bus ride to Camp Guernsey, Wyo., to attend pre-deployment training, and the call from my wife. My daughter had said goodbye to me earlier in the day at the airport, but she didn’t understand why, now it was past 6 p.m., I still hadn’t come home from work. My wife found my daughter sitting by the garage door in our kitchen, waiting. She had waited there for more than an hour, but it hadn’t occurred to her, yet, that this was not her daddy’s typical work day, and she wouldn’t get to welcome me home for more than six months.
When I finally did come home, I admit I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure if my daughter would remember me when I stepped off that plane in Abilene, Texas. When I did, all that nerve was for naught, as my daughter made a beeline for me as soon as she saw me and gave me a huge hug.
Part of that commitment I made, was knowing I will miss some of those moments with my family. There will always be more deployments, TDYs and weekend duties that will call me in to serve in the future, and I will ask my daughter once again to share that sacrifice.
Now, when I think of the Month of the Military Child, it’s not just an opportunity to spotlight our military children; it’s a chance for us Airmen to say thanks for our children’s service.
So let me take this opportunity to say – thank you, Kaitlynn, for your sacrifice to our country.