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The role of the military father

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- When people think of the military men serving at Offutt many words come to mind. Words like tough, honorable, courageous and hero are mentioned often by many. But, one word that people tend to forget is father. 

Being a father can be very difficult but being a military father can present a different set of challenges, said father of five Staff Sgt. Eric R. Davis, 55th Security Forces Squadron. "I think some civilian dads take it for granted that their children are always with them. I hate to be away from my children because I wonder how long I have to guide them down the right path before I'm gone again." 

"One of the toughest things we are asked to do as military fathers is to leave our families for months at a time," said Tech. Sgt. Michael S. Logan, 55th SFS. "When you have to leave your family, some new roles are taken on by everyone in the family." 

Sergeant Davis, a member of U.S. Strategic Command's Elite Guard, said having to leave his family is the hardest thing to deal with. "Deployments are tough because when you come back, you're basically starting over from square one." 

One of the hardest things to deal with is the role changes, said Sergeant Logan, a father of two. "When I deploy I become less of an authority figure." 

"(When I'm away) my role changes a lot," said Master Sgt. Kevin Allen, U.S. STRATCOM Public Affairs, and single father. "I go from being very involved with my children and doing the day-to-day upkeep of things to a supporter. I make it a point to call and email as much as possible to keep the contact going." 

"Being married, the biggest change is you give up the lead role and you become the supportive member to your spouse," said Tech. Sgt. Mario Mendez, 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron. "You have to make sure that you are on the same page as your spouse for things like discipline, finances, education and even those little things like sleepovers and dances." 

Sergeant Logan cautions that as hard as it is to be away from home try not to stress out about every situation. "Let your children make mistakes," he said. "That is how they are going to learn, and there is only so much you can do being far away from the family." 

Sergeant Davis, who recently returned from an eight month deployment to Camp Bucca, Iraq said one of the keys in dealing with being away is the transition back home. "You always have to remember that mom has to play the dad role while you are away. When you come home there has to be a gradual integration back into the family, take your time but don't wait too long." 

Although the role of the military father is difficult due to the operations tempo, there are moments joy that help military fathers cope with the pain of absence. 

Sergeant Davis said it is difficult to miss the special events and the holidays and Sergeant Logan agreed. "One of the toughest things is realizing that I will miss some significant events in my children's lives or having to tell them I won't be there for a holiday because I have to deploy." 

"The toughest thing that I have had to deal with was not being there for my wife when one of our sons was born on Christmas Day," said Sergeant Davis. 

Sergeant Allen recalling a pre-deployment said, "I remember when my parents took my son back to Michigan a few days before I flew out, and watching them pull out of the driveway reduced me to tears. I make no excuses for that... I love my kids, I love being a dad, and I can't imagine things any other way." 

Following the difficulty of leaving come the joys of the return. 

"Coming back from any separation and seeing my children, their faces in person that has to rank up there as one of the best feelings in the world," said Sergeant Allen.
Sergeant Davis remembers getting off the plane with more than 300 people in Baltimore, Md. "I got off the rotator and processed customs, and then I just picked up my children and hugged them." 

All of these fathers agree that the most important thing is family time and not taking it for granted. "Life is short, enjoy the moments you have with (family), because the bottom line is you never know when you are going to have to pack up and leave again," said Sergeant Davis.