Deployed for Father's Day: Five Perspectives
(June 20, 2010)
|WASHINGTON, June 18, 2010 – As Americans celebrate Father's Day this weekend,
thousands of military fathers will be deployed thousands of miles from their
Five servicemembers shared their Father's Day memories and personal perspectives
about what it means to be a military father serving in wartime. Here are their
Army Staff Sgt. Scott Williams, second from right,
said he'll miss, not only his family, but also his father's “famous
marinated family steak” while deployed to Kuwait this Father's Day.
|Army Staff Sgt. Scott Williams
Growing up in Iowa, Army Staff Sgt. Scott Williams always associated
Father's Day with his father's “famous marinated family steak.”
Now with three boys of his own, Williams typically starts Father's
Day with a run to the local grocery store for eggs and bacon while
his sons, Michael, Christian and Gavin, devour donuts.
“Then I'm pretty simple in that I really just enjoy having my boys
around, watching them play video games, laughing and enjoying
themselves,” he said. “It's just nice to see them happy.”
This year, Williams will be watching his sons via Skype from Camp
Buehring, Kuwait. A member of the Army Reserve's 103rd Expeditionary
Sustainment Command, he and his fellow soldiers are awaiting flights
into Balad Air Base, Iraq, to begin their deployment mission.
This will be William's first time being deployed during Father's Day, and he
expects it to be a bit emotional. “I'll be thinking of my boys a lot on that
day,” he said. “They're great kids.”
Military life isn't easy on children,
said Williams, who served on active duty before joining the Reserves and has
moved his family several times as well as deploying. His oldest son, Michael,
now 17, attended five or six different schools during one three-year period as
the family moved between posts.
“That's hard on any kid, but couple that with the fact his dad is gone some of
the year on training events or in Iraq, and it all gets magnified,” Williams
If there's one lesson he hopes he extends to his sons, he said he hopes it's “to
be generally good people and to remember family first.” He also hopes they'll
believe in something that makes them proud and happy – as their father believes
in the Army “and everything wearing the uniform stands for.”
In addition to calling his sons as well as his own father and father-in-law this
Father's Day, Williams said he's looking forward to a hearty Father's Day meal
in Kuwait. “No matter what they have in the chow hall for dinner, I'll pretend
it's my dad's family steak,” he said.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Flynn, second
from left, will miss his family while deployed to Cuba as part of
Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay. But he said he strives every day to
live the values his own father instilled in him. Courtesy photo
|Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Flynn
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Flynn learned his most valuable
life lessons about honesty and hard work from his father, Raymond
So typically his Father's Day observances center on his own father
as well as his father-in-law, and now that he's become a father
himself, his 4- and 6-year-old children.
“It's a family day, and I'm so thankful to have my father and be
able to spend time with him, as well as my wife's father and my own
family,” he said.
A Navy Reservist deployed to Cuba with Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Bay, Flynn won't be spending this Father's Day bopping around the
Boston area to visit with family.
He's counting on a special meal at the dining facility, phone calls
home and special activities being planned at the morale, welfare and
Flynn has been away from home on Father's Day before, serving with the 5th Fleet
in Bahrain. And as he learned there, the best way to deal with family
separation, especially on special occasions, is to “stay positive.”
He strives to carry on the lessons his own father taught him while he's
deployed, from sharing treats he receives in care packages from his family and a
Boston area veterans group that “adopted” him while he's away.
“I try to follow the lessons my father taught me every day,” he said. “If I can
help people through my example, personally or in their military careers, then
that's what I really want to do.
“I hope to provide them the lessons I learned from my own father -- lessons that
can help make them better sailors, better troopers, better citizens, better
Americans,” Flynn said.
Army Staff Sgt. Allan Ortiz will miss his
traditional family Father's Day celebration this year while he's
deployed to Afghanistan as part of the International Security
Assistance Force Joint Command. Courtesy photo
|Army Staff Sgt. Allan Ortiz
Father's Day has always been an adventure for Army Staff Sgt. Allan Ortiz. His
wife and daughter, 8-year-old Adriana, usually wake him with breakfast in bed,
and 3-year-old Nicholas joins them in presenting a Father's Day card.
Then, the family sets out on a day trip. “It is usually a surprise for me where
we are going,” Ortiz said.
This year, Ortiz isn't expecting any surprises. He'll be in Kabul, Afghanistan,
working as he does every other day as part of the International Security
Assistance Force Joint Command.
“I will probably just spend it with my battle buddies and working most of the
day,” he said. “It will be very different than what I am used to.”
Ortiz remembered back to his last Father's Day deployment.
“I was too busy on patrols to realize it was Father's Day,” he said.
Being away from his family for extended periods is a hardship, Ortiz said. But
it's especially difficult, he said, “when your kids get old enough to understand
that you are gone for long periods of time, and you have to explain to them why
you are away so much without really telling them what you are doing.”
But he said he's hopeful that through his service, he's setting an example for
his children: “to be responsible, reliable, productive people.”
“The military supports that in every way because those are key to one's
character,” Ortiz said.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ross Coleman expects this
Father's Day to be just another working day while he's deployed to
Baghdad providing communications support for the advising and
training mission in Iraq. Courtesy photo
|Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ross Coleman
After 12 years in the Navy, Petty Officer 1st Class Ross Coleman is pretty
accustomed to being away from his three kids on Father's Day.
This year, he's serving his longest deployment yet, 12 months, providing
communications support for the advising and training mission in Iraq.
Coleman arrived in Baghdad just three weeks ago, and expects this Father's Day
to be pretty much business as usual in the scorching Baghdad heat. No breakfast
in bed. No afternoon nap. No dip in the pool.
“I have obligations I have to fulfill,” he said. “But if possible, I will
definitely try to call home,” something he expects to be much easier ashore than
during his previous deployments at sea.
Coleman will have other reminders of his wife and three children,
13-year-old Victoria, 10-year-old Sophia and 8-year-old Alexander.
In addition to the
family photos Coleman brought with him to Iraq, he's likely to flip
through a sketchbook his daughter created for him, with a new piece
of artwork for every week of his deployment.
Coleman also expects to dip into the care packages he regularly receives from
home. “My kids are notorious for throwing surprises in them,” he said. The box
that arrived just a few days ago in time for Father's Day included a purple
teddy bear and red dragon that lights up.
While remaining stoic about not observing Father's Day with his family, Coleman
said he takes comfort knowing the example he's setting is having an impact on
“It's all about conviction,” he said, qualities he said his children already are
beginning to exhibit. “You can definitely see it. When they make up their mind
about something, they will carry it through,” he said. “The trick now is to
steer that to the right path.”
If there's one vital factor to successful fatherhood during a deployment,
Coleman said it's having a strong, supportive spouse, like his wife Nicole.
“You can't run your house long-distance,” he said. “You have to be able to
support that person,” and ensure your children recognize that.
That support must continue after returning home, he said, particularly during
the critical reintegration period. “You have to work yourself in slowly,” he
said. “Things tend to work out better if you take your time and just let things
Army Staff Sgt. Jason Himel hopes to maintain
story time with his children as a special Fathers Day event, even
while deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan. Courtesy photo
|Army Staff Sgt. Jason Himel
Story time with his children has always been a highlight of Army Staff Sgt.
Jason Himel's activity-filled Father's Day celebrations.
Typically he sleeps in until 10 a.m. or so before his two children, Joshua, 10,
and Emily, 9, deliver his breakfast. The family then spends an active day,
playing games, going for a walk, bike riding and bowling, before firing up the
barbecue for a big outdoor picnic. After the family gathers to watch a movie,
Himel's children select a story for him to read to them.
This year will be different, as Himel's children will use a computer to read to
their father, who is currently on a duty tour in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Himel deployed in September with the Army's V Corps as part of the International
Security Assistance Force Joint Command. But even thousands of miles away, he
hopes to maintain at least some of his family's Father's Day traditions.
“I will continue the tradition of sleeping in – at least I plan on it,” he said.
“I will more than likely watch a movie and treat myself to a good cheeseburger
from the gold ol' local coffee shop.”
Himel then hopes to cap off the day contacting his family on the computer for a
video chat and story reading.
While Father's Day away from home is no fun, Himel said he's grateful for good
Internet connections that enable him to keep in touch with his family.
During his last deployment, he had minimal Internet access, and not enough
bandwidth to chat online. He worked most of the day, but squeezed in time to
telephone his family for a few minutes -- long enough for his kids to read him a
good short story.
Quality family time and communication is key in Himel's family, he said. Himel
said he strives, even while deployed, to make sure his children understand he's
always there for them.
“I always tell them, ‘No matter what happens throughout the day, whether good or
bad, at the end of the day, it is family who will be there,'” he said. “Love and
communication goes a long way.”
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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