To all the Atlanta area military fathers attached to Dobbins, McPherson, Gillem, or Armories; to all the retirees and veterans in our Atlanta area neighborhoods and to those currently deployed; to my Marine husband and his Marine father, and especially to my own father, Capt. Kenneth Donald Albritton, USCG (Ret.),your military children wish you a very Happy Father’s Day and a heartfelt… welcome home.
Fathers are strange. Military fathers are even stranger. Here are a few differences:
While most fathers excuse themselves delicately by stating they must go to “the bathroom”- if they say it at all- a military father will boldly pronounce, “Hafta hit the head.” “Head” being the military term for bathroom.
When their children have erred in some way, a civilian father will calmly tell his child, “This wasn’t a very wise choice, now was it? Maybe you should go to your room and rethink the situation for a few minutes.” Then he’d smile at them.
When their children have erred in some way, a military father will calmly tell his child, ”This wasn’t a very wise choice, now was it? Maybe you should go to MCRD Paris Island, South Carolina and rethink the situation for a few months.” Then he’d stare at them… because he’s really, really serious.
When a civilian child complains that cleaning their room is too hard, a civilian father will explain ways to make it less difficult, thus solving that momentary dilemma. Most civilian children are thankful for the temporary lapse in task while they listen to their fatherly encouragement.
When a military child complains that cleaning their room is too hard, a military father will delve into the complex difficulties involved in an all out military combat deployment and pack-up logistics. Either that or he packs up the entire bedroom and labels it with, “Afghan Troops”. Most military children shut up after that.
Common medical supplies for a civilian father? Casts, Bactine, doctor’s offices and band aids.
Common medical supplies for a military father? Duct tape and a lollipop.
*Civilian father: “I know it hurts pal. Look, this is where I fell off’a my bike.” Then, somberly, he’ll show you HIS scars.
*Military father: “Pain is weakness leaving the body. Look! This is where that shrapnel hit me!” Then, excitedly, he’ll show you HIS scars.
*Civilian father: “Don’t trade your lunch at school unless your teacher says it’s OK.”
*Military father: “Don’t trade your underwear in boot camp… unless your DI tells you to. Then… do it really, really fast!”
To a military man, fatherhood is conducted between pack-ups and rotations. It comes in the form of hurried phone calls from far way places and letters, each labeled with a number. They hold tighter to the homespun moments they create and hang on longer because of their fleeting nature. For a military man, fatherhood progresses from the decks of ships and sandy hills; from C-130’s and Coast Guard Cutters; from jets and helicopters… these men parent. Although distance is often the norm, military fathers see no deterrent. No matter the distance, no matter the time, they see no difference. In keeping with all true military men, these special fathers see only a slight obstacle over which to lead those who are under their care. And, bravely and quietly… they do.