I Returned From War Completely Lost. Then, I Became a Father

Aaron Blaine was in the Special Forces and earned two Bronze Stars. When he rejoined civilian life, he felt unmoored. Then his son came along.

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Aaron Blaine spent 14 years in the military, including seven years on multiple teams in the Army Special Forces.  He was decorated with two Bronze Stars and held the ranks of Sergeant First Class and Special Forces Sr. Weapons Sergeant. Today, he lives in Bozeman MT with his wife and 7-month-old son, Easton, and is working hard to help men both grow and heal both in and out of the military. Aaron’s transition from active duty to civilian life was anything but smooth. He felt both unmoored and unfulfilled. But that all changed the day he became a father. Here, Aaron explains how, by holding true to his training and values, he’s found a life that feels true. 

I had a strong father. He showed strength in his work ethic, in his commitment to physical training, and in his love to his family and those he cared for. He and my mom were madly in love, it was obvious to everyone around them. And he was all there for my brother and I. We constantly spent time outdoors, we built tree houses and forts in the woods and life was goodHe used to bury plastic dinosaurs in the backyard so we could go dig them up. If having an amazing dad was currency, I was a billionaire. He was my number one hero.

We lost him when I was 11. He had a sudden heart arrhythmia — he was incredibly fit and healthy and there was no warning. It just happened. It shook our world, hard. I still miss him every day, but he planted the seeds of the core values I live by: Follow the best guy, love the worst guy, and get uncomfortable often.

My dad planted the seeds of the core values I live by: Follow the best guy, love the worst guy, and get uncomfortable often.

My dad was the best guy so that one came naturally. All I knew was to follow him. As for the worst guys, he had a thing for troublemakers. He would invite them into the fold of our family and, by example, he taught us to care for them. They would join us for dinner, play with our toys, and come with us as full participants in family activities. It’s just what we did. He got uncomfortable regularly and was completely dedicated to his fitness. He set a high bar on what a fit, strong father looks like.

Without him, I was left searching for another best guy, and partially because of this I joined the military. I pursued a career in Special Forces because I knew I had something untapped inside of me. I wanted direction and I wanted to be tested and shaped by the best men around. The reality of it was exactly what I had hoped for — I saw much of the world, a wide spectrum of humanity, and I did it all with the best teams of men on earth. I served on multiple Special Forces teams for seven years, and then it ended.

I landed in Montana to start the next chapter, and somewhere in the transition I got lost. After being so clear and relaxed into a purpose and mission for so long, I was unsure what to do and why. There were moments where I could not come up with any paths forward, and things got very dark. It’s no mystery to me why so many veterans are taking their own lives.

There were moments where I could not come up with any paths forward, and things got very dark. It’s no mystery to me why so many veterans are taking their own lives.

I launched a new business, an outfitter store and gun dealership. It promptly failed and, as it tanked, it took everything I had to keep myself together. I began to seriously question the legitimacy of my civilian life. I didn’t know where to go.

One day I came home from a hunt and my wife told me that there was something for me on my desk. It was a positive pregnancy test. My first reaction was fear, my heart rate spiked hard — this was not planned. My wife came into the room and collapsed on the floor, crying. I embraced her and let her know that everything would be okay. I remember starting to smile and I cried tears of joy. I told her that this was okay. There was a visceral feeling of joy and relief. This is the moment when I started to get my shit together.

Aaron and his son Easton

I fell back on my values. I had to find a new best guy, I had to love myself, and to do both I had to get uncomfortable. I reached out to a guy who had formed a local men’s group in Bozeman. I had heard him on Joe Rogan’s podcast and I wrote him immediately. In a few weeks time, I found myself sitting in a group of men on a Thursday night, scared as hell but baring my reality and my story to strangers. There was not a single vet in the group, but more than a decade of military life had oddly prepared me to be there. In this group, I found a crucial element I’d been missing: a team of dudes to support, challenge, and love me. That night I learned to connect with men outside the military window and everything changed.

After 36 hours of labor, my son Easton was born. I’ve been in firefights that lasted for days, but I’ve never seen or felt anything like that. 

Five months later, after 36 hours of labor, my son Easton was born. I’ve been in firefights that lasted for days, but I’ve never seen or felt anything like that. My wife is a champion and when he was finally born I was intensely, overwhelmingly relieved.  We’d done it.  I was a dad.

Today, Easton is strong as hell and likes to make growling noises like a bear cub.  We get outside and up in the mountains as much as possible, he even got to come on a very brief elk hunt this last season. Every day I get to live the magic of being a dad, and I melt for my wife when I see her love him so deeply.  We have a really, really good thing going.

What I want for my son is for him to take on the adventures that he’s called to. I want him to find out who he is and be supported to live from that place. I won’t force my values on him but I sure as hell will live mine. I commit to being a guiding light and a source of empowerment. I also commit to cultivating an amazing group of men and women for him to grow up around, not just amazing but the best. The rest is up to him. And I know my dad would be proud of me.

-As told to Dan Doty

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