While having a parent in the military may seem grand and marvelous, but if you were an military brat, you know that it is not all good. There is sadness, worry, and longing. When a parent is absent from your life, the simple things suddenly mean so much more.
My dad joined the National Guard and sent overseas when I was in 4th grade and when I was in 7th. The first time he was sent overseas I was 9 and he was gone a year. My little brother was 2. He would ask for "Dada" and cry often when "Dada" couldn't come to him. Through a program, my dad would record himself reading a book, then send the recording and book to my little brother. Whenever he would want to watch them, I had to leave the room. It was to hard for me to see and hear my dad without being to touch him. The letters, emails, and phone calls where never enough and there were times that he could not get a hold of us.
There were times that he would send home gifts. While they were nice and I was grateful for them, it felt as if he was trying to make up for being gone by buying us stuff. We often send him care packages. In them, I would stick my graded test, artwork, or picture of my school projects in the boxes. I wanted my dad to be part of my life.
He had missed so much. For example: my uncle had to teach me to ride my bike. Then he missed a key moment in my life. It was during this time that I was diagnosed with depression. It hurt to know that my dad could not there for me. I knew he was needed elsewhere, but I wanted to be selfish. I wanted MY dad.
I stopped watching the news. I was always seeing the soldiers who died and I feared that one day I would see my father on there. Fear became part of my everyday life. I feared unknown cars and unexpected phone calls. I would be afraid to be called to the office, for I did not want to find my mother standing there in tears. I never wanted to hear the word "dead" "died" or "missing" in fear that my dad's name would be attached to it.
The holidays became more special for that was when my dad got to come home. It felt as if there were only peace during those selected time. Yet, they also made it harder to say goodbye once they were over. I would go into funks afterwards where nothing mattered to me. Once I got a taste of having my dad around again, I never wanted him to leave. I would cling to him. Yet, after awhile, I was afraid of getting connect to him only to have him leave. So, I would distant myself. I built walls so I wouldn't get hurt anymore. Even though I still loved him, I was afraid of what that love would do to me, to my heart.
Even though it was hard, I knew what it was, what it made my dad. It affected him, it still affects him. He changed. Yet, two things would never change. 1.) He was my dad and I loved him with all of my being. 2.) My dad was a hero. He did not have to join the National Guard. He did not have to put his life and soul on the line for other people. But he did. He was selfless and good. He was the ideal dad to me.
He is still my hero. He will always be my hero. Even though, he is not a soldier anymore, he is still fighting. He fights the memories and the fear that it placed in him. He fights the changes and injuries. He fights to be himself and to be a good father and husband. He will always be fighting and that makes him my forever hero.