Becoming a father was a moment I will cherish forever. I became “Dad” on August 28th, 2014, to a beautiful 8-pound, 4-ounce, 19.5-inch daughter named Lucy. I took away great skills and experiences after joining the Air Force, but becoming a father during that time really was the best moment during those four years. Although the Air Force did not teach me how to be a father, it did challenge me in life to balance working 40hr weeks, staying close to my wife, and taking care of a child.
I went into the Air force at age 20 and had absolutely no thoughts that I would get married or have a child. I was dating my wife at that time, but I was looking for an adventure and the military fit that well. My adventure ended with me taking classes for a year and then moving one state away from where I was raised. At the time, becoming a father would have been incredibly scary; I guess as a young man you do not realize how difficult taking care of a child would actually be. Little did I know as an Airman in Basic Training that the time and effort spent training and becoming disciplined would be key in my preparation to become a father.
As I made it through basic training and tech school, my wife and I grew closer and closer, even through a long distant relationship. The distance apart taught both of us essential communication skills that would later prove hugely beneficial as parents. We tossed the idea around of marriage but wanted to make sure the time was right and we were ready. At the time I was in San Antonio, Texas and was trying to figure out what it would take for us to be together. I knew I was going to be stationed a Scott AFB IL, and my wife was finishing her undergraduate degree in Wisconsin. The time was perfect, and after many trips to the jewelry shops with my best buds I found the perfect ring and set my proposal for Christmas. When I came back to Wisconsin for Christmas, I had two weeks of vacation, and my wife and I spent a lot of time together. I did not let her know my plans, but I think she had an idea of what was about to happen. When Christmas came, I arranged for our parents to be together and I had her put a blind fold on and lead her into the room filled with our parents to propose. She said, “yes”.
Then we had to set a date to get married. We had big plans of my wife moving to Illinois for graduate school and set the date for July. Still at this time children were the last things on our minds. It would have been difficult, and I knew for sure I didn’t have the skills to be a father. In July, I came back to Wisconsin and we got married in Stevens Point. We then went on our honeymoon and after had to move all of our stuff down to Illinois. Once we had moved and settled down, we tossed around the idea of having children but realized it was probably not the greatest time for this.
After year three of my service contract, my wife and I strongly started talking about having a child. My wife was always ready, but it took me a while. One night though, I remember talking with her and telling her that I think we are ready. By this time, I had learned discipline in BMT, perseverance and how to handle late nights during Tech School, and dedication to family while working hard long hours at work. It was an exciting day right after Christmas in 2013 when we found that Amanda, my wife, was pregnant. We were home on leave and were able to share the news with our family. This began a lot of excitement because it was both of our parents’ first grandchild.
My wife and I started figuring out what in our lives would change, and, boy, was it a lot. At the time I was working long hours and my wife had just finished graduate school. Although we knew what it meant to be busy, we were accustomed to living life on our terms, at least as much as the military allowed. But thankfully for the military, we knew that things happen beyond our control and we had always been mentally prepared to roll with the punches and go with the flow. When I joined the Air Force, I never thought that the skills I learned would help me to take care of a child. You really do not think about it at the time, but even physical skills like carrying a bunch of random supplies around helps when you have a car seat, groceries and are trying to open the front door of your home. There were also things like building relationships with the wide range of personalities at work. It was very nice to have their support and be able to have the day off to go to my wife’s medical exams. We also knew what it meant to rely on each other, and even though we appreciate and welcome our family’s support and help, the military prepared us to support each other rather than run to our parents when times got tough.
Then the time came to go to the hospital. Our daughter was on her way into the world. We ended up staying in the hospital for an incredibly long 7 days, but our reward was a beautiful baby girl to take home with us. It is amazing watching her grow and learn and it will be great one day when we get to tell her how she was born on a military base. It will be something unique in her life, and I will be proud to tell her I was in the military. I am thankful for all of the lessons I learned in the Air Force – perseverance, discipline, priorities, relationship-building – that will hugely impact our daughter’s life.