Father’s Day on Deployment


Celebrating in the military.milspouse.com-By Rosemary O’Brien

In the United States, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June each year.   Families take their dad out to dinner, let him watch TV all day, and give their dad a special card to let him know how much they love him.  When you come from a military family, however, you may have to come up with creative ways to honor your father.   What have some military families done to mark Father’s Day during a time when Dear Old Dad was deployed?


Jim Anderson, a retired Naval Officer, spent many deployments away from his family.  According to him there have been too many to remember.  Jim’s wife, JoAnn, always tried to find ways to keep Jim connected when he was deployed, especially when their two children were younger.

“She would send cards and little gifts with me so that I had them to open on the actual day,” he said.  On Father’s Day, he would open cards sent by her and signed by the children when they were old enough to write.  On occasion, JoAnn would send a “Family Gram,” but since they were only allowed eight of them per deployment, they had to be frugal.  “Not much can be said in forty words, but JoAnn always managed to do it,” he said proudly.

On the other hand, Jesika is testing the deployment waters for the first time this year.  Her husband was away this past Christmas which was also their daughter’s first Christmas.

“We worried he would be on a mission or without electricity,” she said, “but we determined to have him watch her and interact with her while she opened her presents.”

So they set up webcams at each end and instant messaged so he could “talk” to her.  “With every rip of paper, bow and every present opened, he was there with us and the rest of the family.”

Tom Litchford is a new dad and is gearing up for the future.  He tries to get ideas from other spouses he knows, but admits that it has been difficult at times.

“Some female spouses have been a little uncomfortable having me around, at first, but they usually get used to the idea,” he said while speaking of his involvement with local spouse groups.

His wife will be home when this Father’s Day rolls around, so he hopes to celebrate by "having dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine.  Danielle’s cooking totally spoils me."

While deployments are necessary as members of the military, there is sometimes a major emotional impact when the deployed dad misses these special days.  The Father’s Day of 2001 found Jim deployed to the Mediterranean Sea.  Again, JoAnn sent along cards and goodies, but this time, she also included a tape set to music of their daughter’s first ultrasound, who was pregnant with their granddaughter.  Jim remembers it as a difficult time, but the joy of watching the video was beyond words.

“I was sitting in my office watching the video and tears were running down my face,” he recalled. As the daughter of a single mother, Jim knew his granddaughter would need strong men in her life to love her and guide her.  He knew her Uncle Josh would be there for her while Jim was away, but he wished he could have been there, too.  Though he missed her birth, he has a wonderful relationship with his granddaughter, Aliyah.  She even started adding to her grandmother’s deployment goodies before Jim’s retirement.  A little painted frog she sent along still sits on his desk.

Now that the children are off on their own, Jim usually enjoys a quiet Father’s Day with his wife of many years.  The added benefit is that with a birthday of June 20, he sometimes gets to celebrate twice in one week!

“It’s kind of like being a Christmas baby,” he said, reaching for the painted frog.


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