Father’s Day Reminds Us of the Many Challenges Military Dads Face

There are many great dads in America. They work hard to provide for their families. They’re faithful to their wives. They spend quality time with their children.

Today we honor these fathers on Father’s Day. It’s a celebration of fatherhood and the influence they have on families and society.

Some of these great dads are not able to spend as much time with their spouses and children as they would like. That’s because they are protecting and serving their country.

But sometimes these dads who are deployed in various parts of the world are able to make surprise visits. And they result in unexpected and touching reunions with their loved ones.

Sergeant Shows Up for Son’s Graduation

Tyler Solomon knew his father would not be able to attend his high school graduation earlier this month.

His dad, Damon Solomon, has been deployed as an Army sergeant in Kosovo since January.

But immediately after receiving his high school diploma at the football field podium at Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Massachusetts, Tyler heard these words from the announcer:

“Please join us in recognizing U.S. Army Sergeant Damon Solomon, who was granted special leave this weekend from his fifth deployment in Kosovo to celebrate Tyler’s graduation.”

School Officials Help Keep the Visit a Surprise

Looking across the field, Tyler saw his father standing proudly. With tears in their eyes, they embraced in a hug that was cheered by students and graduation attendees.

“I had no idea my dad was there,” Tyler said.

“The expression on his face…” Damon said. “The shock, the emotion, the tears.”

School officials handled all the logistics to keep it a surprise up to the end. Even from the rest of the Solomon family.

Birthday Wish Appears Unfulfilled

As he approached his ninth birthday, Ronin Coffelt wanted nothing more than to have his father be part of the celebration.

But with Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Mark Coffelt deployed in Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, it appeared that wasn’t going to happen.

Ronin’s gift from his father was a large box that opened into several small ones. One of the boxes was a letter from dad, wishing Ronin a happy birthday. And apologizing for not being there.

The letter said, “There have been quite a few problems happening here and it looks like I will not be able to be home for your birthday this year. I was able to get you a special surprise, so I hope this makes up for me not coming home.

“I love you with all my heart and I miss you very much, Daddy.”

Surprise Appearance Brings Tears of Joy

Ronin cried as he finished reading the letter, but his mom told him to open another box with yet another letter. It said simply, “Surprise.”

When Ronin looked up, who should be standing there but his father?

Ronin screamed out, “Daddy!” He ran to his father and jumped into his arms. “I missed you. I love you.”

Fortunately, this moment was captured on video. Ronin’s joyous reaction to seeing his father for the first time in eight months has brought many viewers to tears.

A Difficult Balancing Act

Recently a number of fathers currently serving in the U.S. military were asked how they balance their obligations to the country with their family responsibilities.

They acknowledged that it is a huge challenge. They say they miss out on many little things that make up the bigger picture.

Normal family routines don’t exist, except on the rare occasions when they are home.

These fathers have to make an extra effort to make the time that they do have really count.

Military Fathers Tell It Like It Is

Here are some of the heartfelt answers they gave:

“The challenges of the military are very hard when it comes to parenting. The demands that are on you are almost never-ending. Right after September 11th… I deployed every year for four years to Iraq. So I missed the first couple years of my son’s life doing that. I tried to talk to the kids every single night unless coms were down.” – Master Gunnery Sergeant John McGilvrey

“When I’m home, I’m absolutely home. I’m not on my phone or I’m not doing other things. But I’ll be the first one to admit it’s been a real struggle for me as a parent. I think where I benefit is that my wife is a saint and has instilled this great pride in my children for what I do, which allows me to do what I do.” – Army First Lieutenant Jeremy Boeh

A Day to Reflect on Fatherhood

Today, perhaps you are honoring your father or his legacy.

While you’re at it, take a moment to reflect on all the dads who are serving our country away from their families.

Keep in mind the challenges they face as they try to balance these two very important goals in their lives.

Express thanks to your father. And try to be the best father you can be.

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