This Father's Day, many fathers will not receive the token tie. Instead they will receive prayers and, if it is a really good day, they will get to talk to their children and spouse through a computer. These are military dads, men who are helping to ensure that all of us can freely hug and joyously celebrate our own fathers.
Being a military father is a challenging role, and a daunting responsibility. These great Americans struggle to balance the calling of their country with the calling of their families. They rise before dawn to join their units for physical training. They return well into the evening when the day's tasks are completed. They have little control over their day. They are routinely called to distant locations to train or to fight. One of the first sentences uttered by military children is often, "Goodbye Daddy." Their wives realize – but choose not to think about – that each goodbye could indeed be the final one. Wives and children know that when their husband or father joined the military, he wrote a blank check to the United States, not for a dollar amount but rather in the currency of his own life. In his heart, he hopes the nation will never have to cash it.
This vital relationship is one of the main reasons why American Bible Society partnered with the National Coalition of Ministries to Men to develop a Men's Bible. We're working hard to help fathers know how loved, cherished and important their role is. A role that is often most challenging when one is away from his family. Long durations apart are endured. Birthdays, anniversaries, even the birth of children, are frequently missed. Military Dads endure stifling heat, frigid cold, and the dangers of war so that they can offer their families – and families across America – the gift of liberty. Through all this, the military father strives to maintain his family unity, and the best of those fathers make the most of whatever time he has with his family.
The military father gives his family more than just love, though. He exemplifies those enduring values of faith, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. He leaves a lasting legacy for his children to emulate. When my daughter got married, she requested that I wear my military dress uniform when I gave her away. When I asked her why, she said that she wanted everyone there to know the culture from where she drew her morals and values. These important things, I was reminded, are caught not taught.
To all military fathers, I give you this set of orders as issued by the Apostle Paul: "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong (1 Cor. 16:13)." Thank you for your service, both to our nation, and to your families.
On this Father's Day, let us pray for all those fathers serving in the military to protect our freedoms. And let us remember the children who won't be with their fathers this year because of a deployment. May their sacrifice of time with their dads inspire men across America to cherish time with their own children.