Editor’s note: This is the fifth essay in a 12-part Father’s Day series entitled, Honoring Fathers Who Serve. In May, we asked readers to submit essays about the men who have served our country.
Growing up with a military dad, all sorts of stereotypes come to mind: strict rules of behavior, doing lots of physical activity, a rigid chore schedule and a family short on emotion (think Captain Von Trapp at the beginning of The Sound of Music). Though he is a 24-year Veteran of the US Air Force and US Marine Corps, my dad couldn’t be further from that stereotypical image. Yes, we had chores growing up (come on, who doesn’t?) and perhaps over the years some might say we were very well-disciplined. But I can honestly say, my father is the kindest, warmest and the most humble and patriotic man I have ever had the privilege of knowing (think Captain Von Trapp at the end of The Sound of Music).
The military was our life and family culture. Moving around for 18 years, constantly changing schools and moving to a new state, I can’t say that it was always easy. But Dad was always the epitome of strength and service, keeping our family grounded and reminding us that we had an obligation to our country too – to be good, patriotic kids who also represented the United States and the Air Force just as he did. When it came time for me and my brother to choose our paths after high school, it was a no-brainer that we both accepted ROTC scholarships to the University of Pittsburgh (Hail to Pitt!). After four years I went off to the Navy and he went to the Marine Corps.
When people hear that I was a military brat, they often scoff and remark on how hard that must have been. Yes, it was hard. But it’s a part of my childhood and adolescence that I’m extremely proud of because I’m proud of the service my father gave all those years. When people hear that even after 18 years of moving around, I joined the Navy and am now getting ready to marry a Navy man, a look of amazement comes over their faces. I just respond and say, “Some people’s families grow-up in a succession of lawyers, doctors and teachers. We serve in the military. It’s what we do.”
Dad, for 24 years, you served our country selflessly and honorably and continue to serve today through your work with our Veterans. I am so incredibly proud of you for your service to the United States, to our Veterans and to our family. Throughout my life, you’ve been a perfect role model as a parent, a leader and an American; I’m so proud to be your daughter. Happy Father’s Day!
Lt Alison Derr served on active duty for almost five years and continues to serve in the Navy Reserves today. She is continually inspired and motivated by her father, Lt Col Dale G. Derr, USAF, Ret. and his commitment to service, to Veterans and to the United States.