Commentary: Fathers and son
link U.S. Air Force Graphic: Airman 1st Class Chip Slack
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Once a year, in the month of June, the role of fatherhood is honored, celebrated, or at least acknowledged. People, both young and old, reflect upon the leading, or perhaps missing, man in their lives. This Father's Day, I've chosen to observe how incredibly lucky I am on a holiday that normally, to be honest, causes great heartache. This year, I will be honoring the lives of my Father, my Dad and my soon-to-be Father-in-Law.
My childhood was filled with unaccompanied flights to spend summers away from my friends and immediate family just to please the divorce court. As a child, I wanted nothing more than to avoid the plane that took me to spend forced summers with my father, a hard drinker who sometimes stayed that way for days on end. My father was a man of immense means. He succeeded far beyond anyone's expectations and his enviable work ethic and prowess in the corporate world led to a rather lavish lifestyle. But as the years passed, his dependency on alcohol turned a once shrewd businessman into the epitome of regret. It took me until my early twenties to see my father for who he truly was: a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders that was trying desperately to provide for his loved ones while not accepting, nor properly dealing with, failure.
Shortly after my parents divorced, a new father figure emerged in my life. He was, and to this day still is, everything that my father had not been. Level-headed, kind, loyal, but most importantly, a "dad" and true father figure. I can still remember being a shy and embarrassed 10 year old, asking if it was ok to call him "dad." Since our very first meeting, my dad has pushed me and encouraged me to be the best man I can be. He filled a void that, for many years, I never knew I had. He is selfless and brilliant, and everything I could hope to be.
I am not his blood. I am not his legal obligation. He had no reason to be any sort of familial figure to me besides my mother's husband. But he made a choice to raise me as his own, and he has dutifully stuck by that choice for nearly 15 years.
There comes a time in many young adults' lives to settle down and find the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. With that choice comes the frightening yet blessed addition known as "in-laws." Some people may not share this same sentiment, but I can honestly say that I've hit the jackpot with mine. My future Father-in-Law has provided a new element and variation to how I've come to view fatherhood. Through giving me his blessing to marry his daughter, he has given me the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. He has been welcoming, supportive and hysterically comical during the transition of joining our families.
It was three years ago when my eyes were opened to how incredibly lucky I was. My father had just passed away from his long battle with alcoholism, and while I was left defeated and lost, my dad and future Father-in-Law were the ones who helped me put back the pieces of my life. They were a constant reminder that losing my biological father didn't leave me fatherless. Over the years, I had been fortunate enough to have two great men willingly step into my life to help mold me into who I am today, and for that I am incredibly and eternally grateful.
As I progress in the military and my wedding day quickly approaches, I cannot help but be saddened by how much my father has missed. Considering my decision to join the United States Air Force, the challenges that accompanied Basic Military Training, technical training, receiving my first duty assignment and proposing to my fiancé, my father's presence was absent during major milestones in my life.
Though he will greatly be missed throughout the remainder of my life, I am honored that I have two wonderful role models stepping in his place. My Dad, who also happens to be my best man, and my future Father-in-Law, are both playing major roles on my wedding day and I couldn't be happier.
So this Father's Day, I am choosing to honor the lives of three inspiring men; three separate meanings to the word "father," who have, knowingly or unknowingly, altered my life forever. I hope you also find the time to honor the father-figures in your own lives.