As a child, my answer was playful: "My Daddy is my hero because he gives me piggy back rides and plays games with me."
As a teenager, my answer was a little less, well, childlike: "My Dad is my hero because he's strong and helps me when I don't know the answer on my homework."
As a young adult, my maturity began to show as I said, "My Pops is my hero because he's in the military and he loves his children and his country even when it doesn't seem like they love him back."
As an adult, when asked who I consider to be my hero, my answer was different. This time, my heart was swollen with pride and I had to choke back the tears before I could confidently give my answer. Because this time, I’m a parent. So this time I get it.
I get what it feels like to love a little person so deeply that you ache.
I get what it means to sacrifice so much of yourself so that your family is cared for.
I get how hard it is to see your child hurt or sick or sad without being able to fix it.
I get how it feels when your child says they hate you for the first time. But I’ll never forget the day I heard “I love you” for the first timer, either.
I get how much work it takes to make sure your kids have what they need without them ever knowing how much work it takes for you to give them everything they need.
I get the struggle of long nights and early mornings with endless work days and no breaks in between.
I get that it is totally and completely worth it; every whine, every tantrum, every diaper, every fever, every hug, every kiss, every smile.
I get that everything I do, I do for them.
I get that everything he did, he did for us.
So, who is my hero?
My father is my hero. He always has been and he always will be. He is the only person that I can trust my heart and soul with. He is the only person I can depend on to take away my fear and doubt before they take me away. He is the first man who ever loved me without question. Beyond putting his own needs aside for my brother and me, he has proudly and honorably served his country for almost 35 years and has sacrificed more for our safety, freedom and daily livelihoods than Hollywood could ever try to portray in a two hour feature film. He is a compassionate and strong man that has taught me morals and values that are surpassed only by his faith. He has made me who I am today and he is who I can only hope to be like in the future.
Thank you, Dad. Truly, thank you. Not only for being my hero, but for teaching me how to be the same for my kids. We couldn't ask for a better Dad, Father-in-law or Grandpa!