He met his daddy for this first time while snuggled inside his infant car seat. The car was parked on the side of the road, perched next to a ditch on the backside of Fort Benning, Georgia. His daddy and a buddy had been waiting there for a ride -- their first escape from Ranger School in many weeks. His daddy didn't stop to kiss his mommy -- he went straight to him.
The next day he met his daddy for the second time. His daddy pulled him out of car seat, strode over to his buddies awaiting the Ranger School graduation ceremony and hoisted him in the air, as if to reenact a scene from "Roots." Cheers erupted. They clapped. They hollered. There in the air was a five-week-old baby, and there, holding him proud and high, was his daddy.
Since that day Huck, like most military kids, has watched his daddy come and go. He has asked endlessly - sometimes every few minutes -- when his daddy is coming back. He is never satisfied with the answer. He has waited for him by the window. He has watched in awe as his daddy pulled on his boots, zipped up his uniform and done his country's bidding. It's a three-year-old version of hero worship, really, the way that blond curly haired boy stalks his daddy's every move.
To Huck the idea of his daddy is immortal. His presence is coveted -- but just knowing he exists and loves him makes a difference, too.
Military daddies can't always be there in body for their kids. They don't always have the privilege of meeting their children in the delivery room or being a constant physical presence in their children's lives.
But the thing about military dads is that they get to be there a different way. They give their child a real life example of what a hero looks like.