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6 Military Dads on Balancing Duty and Fatherhood

Six military fathers of various rank spoke to us about their service, their families, and what it's like to balance the two.

Amy Bushatz feels like her husband is far, far away when he deploys. And, well, he is.

“Let’s be honest,” Bushatz, the author of’s family-focused site SpouseBuzz said. “Skype doesn’t replace having your dad home. There’s no replacement for having your dad come home at the end of the day to field your million questions about Star Wars when you’re five.”

As Bushatz illustrates, military families face a unique and difficult set of challenges. Service members with kids quickly learn that a predictable family routine is one of many things they need to sacrifice in the name of duty. While advances in communications technology have allowed military dads to keep in touch with family members half a world away, they’re still, well, half a world away. They miss the daily occurrences other fathers take for granted. Like watching their kids savage a bowl of cheerios. Or talking through the Ninjago universe with them. Or consoling them after they strike out in Little League. These fathers must work harder to be part of their children’s — and spouse’s — lives.

Fatherly spoke to six military dads about their service, their families, and how they managed to balance the two. Some of them are active members of the military and others are either recently retired or winding down their career. Below, they relate their experiences in their own words, lightly edited for length and clarity.

1. Army First Lieutenant Jeremy Boeh, Father of Three

“I’ve been to Iraq twice — Sadr City and then Kirkuk. Any milestone that comes within the first 13 months of a child’s life? I’ve missed those. It’s hard to kind of even think back now on what that was like, ’cause it’s such a blur. When you’re deployed, you’re living in this silo of what your life is versus, in my case, what my spouse and my daughter were going through. And so, watching the first crawl, and the first words, and the first steps through videos, and learning about them in emails, was a surreal experience. There was a bond, but there isn’t a bond like when you’re there every day and you see those moments.” Read More Here

2. Master Gunnery Sergeant John McGilvrey, Father of Two

“The brotherhood and the sisterhood of the military, especially the Marine Corps, we do it for each other but really at the end of the day, we do it for you guys. Without getting too emotional and wearing it on my sleeve, which I don’t, but that’s why we do it. We don’t do it for the paycheck that’s for sure. The dark side of it is you know you’re missing part of your kids’ childhood. And that’s a little depressing. Is that worth it? Is what you’re fighting for worth it? Absolutely. Does it suck in the moment? Absolutely.” Read More Here

3. Major Nick Lozar, Marine and Father of One

“[My daughter is] young enough that she doesn’t remember the time I was far away, which was a lot. I’m very grateful for that. She doesn’t remember when I was working as general’s aide and I basically lived in the Pentagon Monday through Friday. She doesn’t remember me being in Afghanistan for eight months and in the field all the time. She remembers it because I talked about it. She knows that I went to Afghanistan when she was younger. But she doesn’t remember me being gone.  Now that she’s getting older? The absence is noted much more significantly than it used to be.” Read More Here

4. U.S. Army Colonel Kirt Boston

“The most challenging aspect of having children in the military is the frequent requirement to move to new locations. Many of our military assignments are only one-to-two years long. This frequent changing of locations, often to other countries, means switching homes, schools, and making new friends and, as young children, this can be tough. The best part of having kids in the military is watching how resilient, flexible, and proactive they become as young adults. Although they do not wear a uniform, they are in the military with me.” Read More Here

5. U.S. Army Military Police Corps Major Anthony Douglass

“I recently got to come home for leave over the holidays and, as a true measure of their own resilience, the kids made it seem like I never left. They are bigger, more independent, more experienced and my 2-year-old says words that I never imagined coming out of his mouth, but to them, I’m just Daddy. That is what makes this adventure great.” Read More Here

6. U.S. Army Reserve Sergeant Francis Horton, Father of One (and co-host of the military and politics podcast Hell of a Way to Die)

“My last deployment, we had kind of a unique situation in which the internet that we had in our rooms we all paid into and set up a satellite that we all used. But at our office, we had our own connection that wasn’t filtered by the military. And it was a very strong one, too. So we were able to go in early in the morning and do Skype calls. We didn’t advertise that because we would’ve had a huge line, but I know a lot of parents specifically got up at six in the morning to go up to the trailer and jump on one of the computers and log in.” Read More Here