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This Father’s Sacrifice Demonstrates How Military Families Stand Apart
I can’t help but think about a wonderful couple I met during a recent book signing in San Antonio, Texas. I can’t shake Oren and Gloria’s story. To me, it perfectly illustrates why our military personnel and their families deserve our respect. Theirs is a simple story — nothing like the death-defying accounts of bravery on the battlefield in my book “Valor” — but it reveals another kind of heroism that should also give us pause.
Oren, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, when his wife Gloria was due to deliver their third child. He told me that he could have attempted to coordinate a trip home for the birth, but chose not to. “Why not?!” I asked incredulously. As the father of two young boys, I can hardly imagine missing their birth. Nor can I image the doghouse I would still be in with my lovely wife if I had chosen not to be at the hospital with her.
Oren just shrugged his shoulders and said that it didn’t feel right when some junior airman in the same situation could not. It also didn’t sit well to leave others to do his job, while he went home — even if it were for a compelling reason like the birth of a child.
So, instead of being physically present, Oren “participated” in the delivery via FaceTime on his personal computer.
As Oren shared this story with me, Gloria watched with a knowing smile. It seems that she doesn’t pass up many opportunities to remind Oren that he missed the birth of their child, but at this point, it is more in jest than resentment. As Oren learned, “virtual” attendance apparently does not qualify as actual attendance.
Small moments like these reveal so much. Oren chose to sacrifice a special, irreplaceable moment with his family because he believed it would have been unfair to all those serving with him and would have placed a greater burden on his unit during his absence. That decision illustrates to me the selflessness and commitment of our military personnel. It also shows their quiet leadership – Oren made that decision from his own sense of fairness with no expectation of fanfare or recognition; in fact, it’s not clear that the airmen within the command would ever know that he might have been able to travel home for the birth.
Beyond Oren’s self-sacrifice, I also found Gloria’s response to be uplifting. Although she didn’t necessarily like her husband’s decision, Gloria understood it. She faced some tough times as a result — caring for an infant and two older girls by herself was undoubtedly exhausting and stressful, but she muddled through. In fact, she told me after my book talk that hearing about the dire circumstances facing the heroes in “Valor” gave her perspective and made her own struggles seem manageable.
To me, Gloria embodies the spirit of the American military family. Despite the overwhelming burdens placed on them, they don’t complain, they don’t resent, and they don’t give in to the seduction of a woe-is-me mindset. They understand. They cope. They power through.
To get a sense of just how remarkable their dedication is, do this mental experiment: Can you imagine a civilian telling his wife that he decided to miss the birth of a child because he wanted to be fair to his co-workers? And that the wife didn’t divorce him?
That is what makes our military families different.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.