Nurture the family foundation

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Tim Porter
  • 21st Space Wing chaplain
Recently, I attended a chaplain corps conference where I had the opportunity to hear one of our senior Air Force leaders address the audience.

One of his points that stuck with me was military members need to care for their families, because they are the ones who are still in our lives after our military service is complete.

As a chaplain, I have the opportunity to offer invocation prayers at many military retirements, and the family members of retiring military members are always honored for the sacrifices and support they have provided to the service member. This always reminds me that we must nurture these family relationships even while we support the Air Force mission. I like to think of it as nurturing the family mission so we can support the Air Force mission!

Tony Dungy, who coached the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl championship a few years ago, experienced the temptation to allow job demands to consume his time while neglecting his family, but he was able to keep work and family time in balance. In "The Mentor Leader," Dungy writes, "Our employers, whether they realize it or not, need for us to engage in our other priorities because these are the things that recharge and strengthen us. Our relationships and other commitments should leave us more fulfilled and energetic for our jobs and other important pursuits, but they take time and attention for proper care and nurture."

Our "other priorities" may include hobbies, religious activities, continuing education or participation in recreation, but they must also include attention to the relationships that renew our focus and energy so we can perform our jobs at an optimal level.

Although every family experiences some conflict and stress, consider what your family can nurture in you and you in them. Your family can practice religious faith together, which provides spiritual renewal. Family can be a source of laughter and fun where we forget the pressures of work. There's nothing like the laughter of children! Family should be your source of emotional support and care.

It always does my heart good to see military members returning home from a long deployment where they are greeted by their loved ones -- tears, hugs and kisses say a lot! Your family can be your primary source of accountability and personal growth. Usually family members are the ones who have earned the right to speak the truth and tell you how things really are!

We are already making numerous sacrifices to serve our nation and we all reap the benefits of our service, including freedom, but consider the sacrifices we make for our loved ones, spouses and children will return long-term blessings to us throughout our whole life.

Father's Day is June 17, and I want to share an inspiring story from the book, "Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers" by Dr. Ken Canfield, which demonstrates how the sacrifices we make for our loved ones often return to us:

"The 1924 summer Olympic games were held in Paris. Bill Havens was selected to represent the United States that year in an event called Canadian singles which was a canoeing demonstration sport. Havens was good; in fact, everyone expected him to bring home the gold. However, a few months before the Olympics, Havens learned that his wife was due to give birth sometime during the Games. He had a decision to make: the opportunity of a lifetime or ... the opportunity of a lifetime. He made his decision. He stayed home. The team left for Paris without him. On August 1, 1924, his son Frank was born - four days after the Games. Fast forward through all those summers when Bill Havens probably heard the results from every Olympic canoeing event and wondered if he'd made the right decision. But stop in 1952, the year the Summer Olympics were in Helsinki. Havens received a telegram from Helsinki that he surely wouldn't have traded for any amount of 'gold.' The telegram read: 'Dear dad ... Thanks for waiting around for me to get born in 1924. I'm coming home with the gold medal you should have won,' It was signed, 'Your loving son, Frank.'"

Although we make many sacrifices in service for our country, which may include deployments during important family events, we still have opportunities to carve out quality time to spend with family and loved ones. This includes being present for little league games or attending a child's musical concert or important religious rites of passage. It's laying your work aside in order to take your spouse on a date or spend the weekend together. It involves making the effort to stay in touch or visit parents and extended family members who live at a distance. So, invest your time in what matters most, for this is foundational to effective service for your country.