- Jason Davis

This post is poorly timed, seeing how Fathers' Day was yesterday and the best time to profess your appreciation for the man that both provided one half of your DNA and raised you is, naturally, on the day set aside for doing just that.

But it couldn't have happened yesterday, at least not before the event that inspired it, and considering the narrow window of time I had available after the inspiring event, not then either. Actually, since the spark of inspiration didn't come until my head hit the pillow last night, it had to be today. So here I am, writing a Father's Day post the day after Father's Day.

Fair warning: this is only a little bit about soccer.

Jermaine Jones saluted his father after scoring the first goal of the USMNT's 2-0 win over Jamaica yesterday. He stood ramrod straight, placed his left hand at his hip, flattened his right hand out with his fingers squeezed tightly together, and raised it to his brow with his elbow bent at an acute angle. A fine salute, if just a little stiff and reminiscent of a young boys playing soldier in the backyard.

Which is fitting, considering the reasons Jones decided to salute in the first place. Per Jermaine, the salute was meant to acknowledge his American serviceman father on Father's Day. "A nice little gift," he called it (in German to Steve Cherundolo, who then translated). Jones grew up in Germany, only occasionally seeing his father on trips to the States. His version of the American military salute is just what I would expect from someone with his background; while it was technically correct, it was far from convincing.

The salute immediately made me think of my own father. Dad served for twenty years in the United States Air Force, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring in 1999. Frankly, it was shocking he got out when he did. Dad always seemed like the type to keep going until they forced him to quit, and my brother and sister and I were convinced he'd make general before it was all said and done. He honestly loved the Air Force, and by extension serving his country in the armed forces, that much. But instead of hanging on, he traded his uniform for a suit (well not really - I think it's mostly polos and slacks these days, with the requisite key card hanging around his neck) and transitioned to the private sector. He's working for a contractor and doing the exact same work, as far I can tell.

Here's the thing about my dad you should know: he's mostly a big softy with a narrow, but steeled, military edge. He was strict, but not in that overbearing, bring-the-military-home kind of way. We weren't little soldiers in Dad's family army. Dad had his rules, and we definitely called him "sir", but there was never a sense that our house was all that different from those of our friends whose dads were insurance salesmen or engineers. We'd watch TV shows that depicted military fathers and chuckle at how different our lives were from what appeared on the screen*.

Being a military brat had its privileges. When we lived on base, the freedom was amazing. Protected by the fences enclosing the base and the MPs patrolling the it, we could jump on our bikes and go anywhere without our parents batting an eye. As long as we made it home by the time Dad did, we could do just about anything we wanted. Summers were filled with exploratory missions around base to catch crawfish, collect stray golf balls, create new sports that could be played on the various tennis courts, baseball fields, basketball courts, and soccer fields we had access to and just generally have the type of childhood the most kids could no longer have, even then.

Military installations, depending on the size and the amount of personnel stationed there, are completely self-contained communities. Our parents had different jobs within the military machine, but we all had that most basic thing - that we weren't from here (wherever "here" was) - in common. We were permanently displaced, the feelings associated with that fact only subsiding when we were surrounded by others like us.

We did, of course, have to deal with the distasteful re-locations, in varying intervals, but never more than a few years away from the moment we arrived somewhere new. No kid wants to say goodbye to friends and start over somewhere else, and I dealt with it the best I could. As Dad climbed the ranks, the number of moves increased. I attended elementary school in four states, middle school in two, and high school in three. Not all of the moves went well for me, though I always had sports as a way into a new group. I was cripplingly shy for most of my childhood. Dad had fostered my love of sports - one that bordered on obsession at a very young age- thus giving me a chance to feel confident in at least one part of my life. I might have trouble introducing myself to other kids, but as long as I was a decent athlete, I would never be completely isolated.

As an adult, I've come to realize that the constant moving (and really, I didn't have it that bad - there were a couple of longish year stints in there, and I did get to have both my junior and senior years of high school in the same place) probably set me up to better handle change in my later professional and personal life. Of course, it also made me extremely restless, and having the same address for more than a couple years makes me itch like mad, but such is the trade-off. I honestly wouldn't change anything about my military brathood. I don't think I'd be who I am without it. That's all Dad's doing, of course.

I liked being the son a military man (I suppose it helped that my dad was officer, though I never felt like the officer perks made us that much different). I liked being a military brat, and I even liked the label. I liked that the Air Force was like a giant family, and while I went to civilian schools and had civilian friends and didn't suffer any ill-effects of being a military brat in the civilian world, the base is where we fit. When you're in a military family, never in one place long enough to lay down roots, you don't have a hometown. The Air Force (or Army, Navy, etc.) is your hometown, the base itself just the media through which the community interacts.

It's hokey to say that I wouldn't be writing this blog or have any of the "success" I've had if it weren't for my dad, but since it's true I'll say it anyway. I don't mean it in the sense that he passed on a love of soccer (Dad cares about soccer now mostly because I care about soccer, and even then he doesn't watch the sport without me around), or that he was a particular influence on my desire to be a writer (that would be Mom's doing). I mean that Dad never pushed me in any direction I didn't want to go, never ordered me to do anything but straighten up when I needed to, never expressed displeasure or distaste with any of the choices I made in my life. In other words, he wasn't at all like his own dad. As I sit here today, I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful that my dad was both upright Air Force officer and understanding father, without the former dictating his ability to be the latter.

There's a family story that goes that when my dad was headed off to college, my grandfather - a thirty-year veteran of the Army who served in both World War II and Korea - told him in no uncertain terms that he would sign up for Army ROTC upon arrival. My dad, being the rebel that he was, refused. He would join Air Force ROTC, he said.

It might have been the most underwhelming rebellion in the history of father-son relations, but it sums up my dad to a tee. I consider myself the next evolutionary step in that chain.

I never seriously considered entering the military myself. During some of my more aimless years my father might suggest I enlist on occasion, but it was never more than a suggestion. Okay, sometimes it was a forceful suggestion, but definitely never more than that. He saw the military as a fine place for me to be, but he didn't assume to tell me it was the best place for me to be.

So here I am, a mild underachiever with big aspirations, a strong work ethic, and the belief that I can find my way no matter how long it takes. I'm pragmatic. I love my country while remaining able to appreciate that it's not perfect, but that nothing is un-fixable.

In other words, I'm a military brat and most definitely my father's son. Like Jermaine Jones, I feel the need to salute.

Thanks, Dad.  Happy (late) Father's Day.

*Except for Iron Eagle. That is totally real. 
blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy