By Julia Coty
I hear the car starting in the driveway.
The rustling of duffle bags going down the staircase.
The low murmurs of my parents.
With a silent kiss on my forehead, I knew who it was by the familiar smell of his uniform.
My dad was leaving again.
My younger brother and I have gone through this way too often.
Our dad has missed about five of my birthdays and nearly seven of my brother’s.
He also missed dozens of holidays and special events, making every year a gamble to see if he’d be home for Christmas or Thanksgiving.
But we both know why, our dad is in the military and that’s just one of the many things that military families sacrifice.
Growing up, my dad’s deployments were no different than what seemed like a normal parent’s business trip to Arizona. Except my parent was going to Afghanistan or Iraq.
My dad would be gone for months at a time and getting a call in the middle of the night was music to our ears.
For those who don’t know the military lifestyle, let me give you a glimpse into my life.
My dad has been in the United States Air Force for nearly thirtyyears. He’s a master sergeant and with that position, he has many responsibilities and duties.
He mainly works with air transportation, as a load planner, which means he loads the planes and makes sure they’re safe for flight. He has other duties like training airmen, but there’s no other place he’d rather be than near the airplanes.
The first round of anxiety and nervousness comes from learning where your loved one will be sent away to.
The second hit of nerves will be from anticipating what day they’ll be leaving, allowing you scarcely any time to prepare your goodbyes.
The final being dealing with their absence at home.
The most stressful thing for our family was praying and hoping he’d come home safely.
He suffers from a lot, including post traumatic stress disorder and insomnia, but he’s managed to come home safely each time.
Except for once.
My dad was deployed to Balad, Iraq in 2005. They called it Mortaritaville because of the insane amounts of mortars that were blown everywhere. My dad was thrown off the top of a HAS, Hardened Aircraft shelter, when a mortar landed near him.
My dad’s best friend and wingman, Technical Sergeant Cedric Lagajit, managed to pull him away from a dumpster falling onto him as the blow from the mortar ejected it above them.
They both suffered from the percussion and impact.
This traumatic event left my dad deaf and requiring hearing aids for the rest of his life.
Aside from the pains of him leaving, the joy and anticipation of seeing him walk through the terminal was indescribable. The feeling of finally getting to hug and smell him, getting to tell him everything that he missed while he was away, satisfies the pain of missing him.
Since I was little, I have been a loud and proud Air Force brat.
I loved going to my dad’s base, hearing the roars of the C-5s and airmen hustling in the squadron unit, and I still do.
I loved everything about it, and swore to my dad and his airmen, the people I grew up around, that I would soon be in uniform. I love helping out with my dad’s squadron with things like retirement ceremonies and small tasks. I told them to just wait a few years and there would be a second Coty running around.
However, now that I am twenty years old and figuring out exactly what I want to do with my life, I find myself rethinking that promise.
I still contemplate and weigh out the pros and cons of joining the Air Force, but I find myself at a crossroads each time.
Do I want to embark on my own journey, follow my passions, or should I enlist and discover new adventures?
I want to make my dad and family proud by following in his footsteps, but I also don’t know if this is something that I want 100 percent.
People tell me to do what I want, to do the cliche “follow your heart.”
Serving my country would be the greatest honor, and following in my dad’s footsteps would be even greater.
Of course I want to make him proud and fulfill his dream of his children living his legacy.
For those dependents or people who are going through something similar, I think it’s important to remember that you have sources and people that can help you.
Big decisions like this shouldn’t be taken on without lots of research and much consideration. I advise to talk to as many recruiters, veterans and active servicemen. You shouldn’t feel alone and remember that you will figure out your path soon enough.
As for me, joining the military isn’t out of the picture.
I’ll continue supporting my dad, his squadron and other veterans, and if I do choose to enlist then I know it’ll be at the right time.