Soldier-Dad 'Cottonbalers' talk about sacrifice, reflect
June 14, 2012
FORT POLK, La. --Soldiers and their Families are no strangers to sacrifice. The demanding needs of the job can ask them to be gone for weeks or more at a time, and especially around holidays, these sacrifices can seem a little more challenging.
As Soldiers with 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, prepare for a possible deployment by training at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Ft. Polk, Louisiana, the fast tempo makes it difficult to focus on much else. But 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1HBCT, took time to reflect on Father's Day and what it means to be called "Dad," even if they are hundreds of miles away from loved ones.
"Being a dad is something else," explains Sergeant Walter Kinsley, an infantryman with Co. B, 2/7 Inf. and native of Baltimore, Md. "I missed two years of my daughter's life [because of deployments]. It is rough being a father in the military because you want to spend time with them, but I don't regret being in the Army at all. It has instilled discipline and some leadership skills within me, and every day I try to instill them into my kids."
Most fathers feel the same way.
"Father's Day to me is hard to put into words," explained 1st Lt. Jason Nesci, an assistant operations officer with 2/7 Inf. "For my children and my wife to say thank you for doing things I find average and normal is really something else."
"[My girls] don't understand why I'm gone, they just know I'm training with my guys," continued the Buffalo, N.Y. native. "But [being in the Army] is worth it because it is what I chose. I have a great support system at home, they understood this is my choice before we got married and they are supportive of it. It is harder when you are a father and a husband, but this is the job I signed up for."
Being apart is difficult, but these Soldiers have no regrets.
"[Your Family] is why you do what you do," Staff Sgt. Austin King said, a squad leader with Co. B, 2/7 Inf., and a native of Sioux City, Iowa. "[But the Army] is my job. I have my kids there and I have my kids here --It's a give and take. In order for them to have everything they have at home, I have to be away on occasion."
From sergeant to commander, the opinions seemingly never change.
"I think you always wish your parent were home," explained Lt. Col. Todd Kelly, the 2/7 Inf. commander, and native of Savannah, Georgia. "You want to be able to give them a tie for Father's Day. But you understand that sometimes because of either jobs or responsibilities fathers get pulled away. That is the unfortunate part of what we do, but I think that with the examples we set, it allows us to be a beacon for our own children's growth."
No matter how they celebrate the holiday, the value placed on Family and children is indisputable, and the backbone of what makes us Army strong.
"[Being apart] makes you appreciate the moments you do spend with your Family so much more," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Mayfield, the 2/7 Inf., operations sergeant major, and a native of Pleasant Grove, Alaska. "Sometimes we get lost in our mission and forget sometimes that it is even father's day, but the phone calls and pictures they send mean a lot, let me know I am missed."
The Soldiers will continue training for the next week at JRTC before returning home to heart-warming, tear-jerking reunions.
But the sacrifices are worth it to ensure their Families, who mean so much, are safe for many Fathers' Days to come.