'Dark Horse' Leader Reflects on Being an Army Dad
June 11, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq - (Army News Service, June 11, 2007) - In the movie "We Were Soldiers" a young lieutenant who'd recently become a father asks Mel Gibson's character, Lt. Col. Hal Moore, what he thought about being a Soldier and a father.
"I hope that being good at one makes me better at the other," Lt. Col. Moore replied.
Lt. Col. Moore's words spoke volumes about the relationship a father has with his children and the relationship a leader has with his Soldiers. For one senior noncommissioned officer, the word leadership is synonymous with fatherhood.
Command Sgt. Maj. James Daniels, the top noncommissioned officer for the 4th "Dark Horse" Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has been in the Army for more than two and a half decades. Although his military career is long and, according to him, nowhere near close to an end, it's only about a year longer than he has been a father.
Twenty-five years ago, Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels enlisted into the military with the full support of his family. Two of his brothers were already in, so they knew what to expect. More importantly, his father, a pastor at the time, gave him his blessing.
"He was a great mentor," he said. "He told, 'Cherish your family,'" Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels recalled. "They will always be there for you through thick and thin. You will always have your family to fall back on. The closer you are to your family, the stronger the bonds are, and no one can break those ties."
Shortly after having his first child, Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels was assigned to a station in Germany where his dependants weren't allowed. This was his first test as a father in the military.
"The deployment taught me that being away and still having that bond, you really don't lose anything," he said.
Early in Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels' career, things like mid-tour leave didn't exist. He and his family had to rely on the bonds created from triumph and tragedy.
His first child was killed in a motor vehicle accident when he was only 18 years old. Although the pain was great, Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels said it made his family even stronger.
"It strengthens you," he said. "It makes you closer as a family to lose a loved one, much like during a deployment."
This isn't the first time away from their families for most fathers currently serving in Iraq. Although the many veterans are well-honed warriors, they admit that leaving their wives, daughters, sons and friends doesn't get easier with time.
To help his Soldiers, Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels assumes the role of a father figure every time he sees them. He said that many of the little things like a pat on the back or a few words of encouragement can make all the difference.
The origin of Father's Day can be traced back as far as 1909, when Sonora Smart-Dodd first came up with the idea to honor her father for what he'd done. William Smart was a Civil War veteran who was widowed and left to raise his six children on a farm near Spokane, Wash.
Ms. Dodd was at a Mother's Day sermon when the idea came to her. About a year later, the mayor of Spokane chose the month of June to celebrate the American father because June was the month of William Smart's birthday.
It wasn't until 1966 when former President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June to be considered Father's Day for a national observance.
In 1972, former President Richard Nixon signed the bill making it law declaring Father's Day a national holiday.
For people like Command Sgt. Maj. Daniels, it's more than just a holiday, especially while he's deployed. It's a time for him to reflect on not only his accomplishments, but those of his children and his Soldiers.
(Spc. Alexis Harrison writes for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)