Tuesday, 29 April 2008

"Do You Wanna Take My White Puppy?"

As I write this, I am looking at my favorite picture taken of us when I was on leave in March (see "Family Pic"). My wife Jen, my 3 year-old son and my 5 year-old daughter were standing at the top of the Harbor Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head. Jen is standing there with a big smile—happy that I’m home finally, after 10 months of deployment. I have a huge grin on my face as well, excited to be with them. As I look at the kids, I see many lessons that I have learned over this deployment. My son is scared stiff—tightly holding onto my leg with both hands clasped. Maybe he is scared to death to be at the top of the lighthouse on a windy day. He doesn’t want to let go of Daddy for fear of what may happen. This is not new for him. He now knows what it is like for me to be gone and can't stand the thought of me not being there. When I got off the plane and walked into their arms a week before, he just grabbed on and wouldn’t let me go. This is far different from his reaction to my leaving. At that time, surprisingly, he was the strong one.

I remember the day I left, I was crying, Jen was crying--and it was our kids who comforted us! My son has a little stuffed dog he calls “my white puppy.” He cannot sleep without his white puppy. He takes it with him like Linus with his blanket, everywhere he goes. When he saw me struggling with tears the day I left he said the sweetest thing any kid has ever said, “do you wanna take my white puppy?” Jen and I laughed and then cried all the more. God used him to bring comfort and humor in our lives when we needed it most. My daughter was also strong. She said, “its OK, we’ll be here for mommy.” Neither of my children understood how long Daddy would be away. They didn’t know how many nights of crying and missing their Daddy were ahead of them. But they had a compassion and empathy for our sadness and they were willing to give up their most prized possessions to make me feel better. I learned that day that I was more important to my son than even the white puppy! I learned that he was willing to give up his own comfort in order to comfort me! That day, both of our children fulfilled the commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.” How privileged I am to be their father!

During leave, I spent as much time as possible playing with them, rolling in the floor, sword fighting with the foam swords I bought from the toy store, camping in the back yard, riding bikes out front, going to school to pick up my daughter, dyeing Easter eggs, playing hide-n-seek—doing those things that I wanted so much to do when I was gone. When I left again, at the end of leave, my daughter knew that it would be a while. She cried. We all cried. And the kids are still having a hard time getting used to Daddy being gone.

As our days on this deployment come to a close and as we begin to develop the expectations of our wonderful reunion, we all must remember to invest time and effort in connecting and loving and teaching our children. I will never regain the time that I have spent away from them, but I can make every moment with them, from here on out, count. If you love them, they will offer honor to you—maybe even, in the form of a white puppy.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Some chaplains will remember the Military Chaplains Review, which once provided a forum for reporting and reflection related to the vocation of the military chaplaincy. Other publications, such as service-specific items and The Military Chaplain (of the Military Chaplains Association) are excellent . . . but they do not share the same scope as did MCR.

Good news--a new ejournal will begin publication this fall with a vision for addressing this need. Curtana † Sword of Mercy will provide a home for preserving the history of the chaplaincy, sharing ministry experiences and insights, and discussing challenging issues of import to clergy serving in the armed forces.

You can read more, and "subscribe" to the journal, at http://justwar101.com/journal/.

Call for manuscripts: If you feel inspired, get to that keyboard now and draft a manuscript to be considered for publication in the inaugural issue. Since the journal will be released in September, the deadline for submissions is 31 August. Details are available online, but all genres will be considered, and 500 to 2000 words is a safe ballpark for articles.

Please spread the word about the Curtana. We are especially eager to have chaplain assistants and international chaplains learn about the journal. And, although we will focus on matters of interest to the chaplaincy, everyone interested in the interplay between the military and religion will be potential readers of the publication.


Robert C. Stroud
Chaplain, USAF (Retired)