June 19, 2015 —
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 19, 2015 - As some 70 million American fathers observe Father's Day this year, some of those dads will do so thousands of miles from their families, serving in the U.S. military at remote outposts.
Those deployed dads are among the 9,800 American troops In Afghanistan today who are part of the Resolute Support Mission training, assisting and advising the Afghan National Army and the National Police. For each of these displaced dads, the Father's Day observance holds a personal and unique meaning.
For Marine Gunnery Sgt. Geann Pereia, who deployed to Afghanistan in May, this year will be the third in the last four Father's Days that he has missed spending with his wife and their four-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
"Last year was the only time I actually got to spend Father's Day with my family," said Pereia, who is deployed from Quantico, Virginia, where he is an administrative specialist at Marine Corps headquarters. "Last year on Father's Day we spent time together as a family and barbequed at home. My wife made potato salad, and I cooked on the grill. It was nice."
This year finds Pereia at Resolute Support Headquarters here, assigned to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan.
Like many other homes across the United States, it will be to the military wife to take the lead in observing Father's Day.
"My daughter doesn't really understand Father's Day. She just knows daddy is at work, and it's a special day for dads," Pereia said. "My wife spends time talking about daddy, doing craft projects and taking pictures to mail me. My daughter sent me a heart in the mail, and that was really nice."
This year is even more unique to the 13-year Marine veteran because a few days after arriving in Afghanistan he found out his wife is pregnant. He said the timing of this redeployment to the United States should work out for him to get home just in time for the birth.
Father's Day 2015 is a milestone for Army Sgt. James Marable, section sergeant, D. Company, 2-14 Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division stationed at New Kabul Compound. Marable arrived in Afghanistan with his unit in April, and it is his first Father's Day since becoming a dad. His daughter was born in December before he left his home station of Ft. Drum, N.Y.
Growing up in Columbia, Tennessee, shaped Marable's view of Father's Day, he said. "My father was an extremely hard worker. He had a job that required physical labor, day in and day out, and he still does it to this day. He's probably the hardest working man I've ever met, so to me, Father's day was that day of where we catered to him. Except that my father never took that day off. That night he would come home and eat a special dinner, but he never took that day off."
Looking to his own family, Marable says he and his wife are a traditional couple, and the day is significant to them even though he is spending Father's Day in Afghanistan. "It's like reiterating my commitment to my family because I'm doing this for them. Any man can have a child, but being a father takes something special. You support that family ... their lives are in your hands."
Marable said he would go home in a minute to see his wife and child if he could. "But even the little part I'm doing to keep them safe, to put clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads on Father's Day means a lot to me."
Petty Officer 2nd Class Edwin Maldonado is a Navy Reservist deployed from his home station in Fort Buchanan, San Juan, Puerto Rico. At Resolute Support headquarters, he is a logistics specialist.
Maldonado went to sea for months at time on three occasions when he was on the active duty Navy, but this is first extended trip as a reservist and a father. This is his first Father's Day away from his wife and two daughters. Normally, he said he spends Father's Day with his family doing something special.
"Last year, my wife and daughters were in charge of the entire Father's Day program at church, and it was dedicated to fathers. They had special music in the program, and my daughters actually sang a song to me. I didn't know they were going to do that, so I got a little choked up. I had tears coming down."
He said his deployment will be about 10-and-a-half months by the time it is done, longer than he has ever been away from his daughters. "They were used to me going away for a couple of weeks at a time. They weren't ready for me to be gone this long, so it was really hard for them when I left. It's tough being away, especially now that they are older and our relationship has grown. We talk more and they understand more about where I am and they worry about me being here. When I got orders to come here, they asked me why I had to go. They didn't want me to come here. I told them that it's just something I had to do. It's part of my job."
Another Resolute Support headquarters dad is Army Sgt. 1st. Class Douglas Morton from the Connecticut National Guard. Here he serves with the forward support battalion where he is in charge of Morale, Welfare, and Activities for about 2,400 U.S., NATO and coalition members who make up the multinational community.
This is Morton's first Father's Day away from wife and two sons. "This is my second deployment but the first since becoming a dad," said Morton, who arrived in Afghanistan in May. "When I was growing up, Father's Day was always a day to say 'thank you' to my dad for all the things he did for our family. Also, it's a day when a father does things with his kids."
"But what I miss the most about being here are the everyday things. The other day was 'bring your parent to school day' for my oldest son, so my wife and I tried to set up a video chat session with me from the classroom. But, because of faulty internet, it didn't work," he said.
Morton said he had no special plans for this Father's Day, but he would definitely talk to his sons on the phone and probably video chat with them.