By Wallace McBride, JacksonApril 19, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- First Lt. William Edwards never misses a day with his children, even when there's an ocean between them.
While deployed in Iraq for more than a year, Edwards kept in touch with the usual means at a Soldier's disposal. Letters, email and webcam conversations made sure he stayed involved in his four children's day-to-day activities, but he didn't stop there.
"Some dads will read stories on video before they leave so they'll have those while their gone," his wife, Esther, said. "He did that, and sang songs for them. That became a cherished video for them that they'd watch every night. While he was out there, he took it a step further and made a video called, 'The Day with Daddy.' It was from sunup to sundown, what his day was like in Iraq."
William said he tried to capture his regular daily activities, from the mundane, such as brushing his teeth in the morning, to the adventurous. And then he added special effects and music just to make sure his children were entertained.
"I carried a camera with me everywhere I went, just so they would get an idea that I was with them," he said.
"Having that visual connection with your Soldier when he's gone is huge," Esther said, "And that he took the time to do it was special."
When Esther's father told her about the 2012 Military Fatherhood Award campaign being organized by the National Fatherhood Initiative, she did not have to struggle to find examples of why William qualified.
"A couple of months passed and, maybe two or three weeks ago, I got an email saying he's been chosen as a finalist," she said. "He's one of three finalists out of 450 nominees nationwide. I didn't tell him that I nominated him until I got the email telling him he was a finalist. When he found it, he was kind of excited."
The three finalists represent three branches of the armed forces, with Edwards being the lone Army finalist in the campaign. The finalists were given video cameras and asked to record two-minute videos making their case for the award. Esther said the videos would be posted around April 23, when voting opens online to the public. People will be allowed to vote for their favorite candidate until May 20.
"They're ecstatic about it," Esther said of her children. "They had fun making the video, too. They're excited to be a part of it."
Coordinating responsibilities to the Army and his family has required discipline, even when deployments are not involved, said William, who is assigned to Company E, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment. He makes sure each of his children, who range in age from 6 to 12, get their own day with him during the week.
He also plays in a band with them, called Eddie's Experiment. Music is a huge part of the family's life, Esther said. Both parents are music teachers and have passed those skills along to their children.
The oldest child, David, plays keyboards in the band. Elena, 8, plays drums, while Jacob, 11, plays bass. Luke, 6, is happy to dance as the band plays.
"We put together a little show that we've played in Columbia," William said. "We start with the '40s and jazz, then we go into the '60s and '70s. We do two songs from each era. (The children) like it and have fun with it, but it's also taught them about music, which is a big part of our family. I think a lot of people get a kick out of seeing real young kids performing in a show, too."
His strategy for fatherhood has evolved a lot since the birth of his first child, which happened just a few weeks before he joined the Army.
"With the first child, it was a group effort," he said. "When she was tired, I'd watch him, and when I was tired, she'd watch." Since then, he said the strategy has changed to "zone defense."
"As they've gotten older I can't believe how fast time has gone by," he said. "I've only got a certain amount of time with them and I've got to make those years count. If I'm here or if I'm deployed, I have to make sure I'm being a father to them."
Click on the Vote for Father of the Year link to see the Edwards video and cast your vote!