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Thursday, June 1, 2017 Lessons Learned from my Military Dad

The year I graduated from college was the same year my dad retired from a 26 year career in the United States Air Force.

Growing up as a military kid certainly had its perks, but for all the blessings there were also trials – moments of fear, uncertainty, challenges and growth. Fortunately, truth is often revealed in such circumstances, and my experiences as a military kid gave me some life-long nuggets of truth. In honor of Father’s Day, here are some of the best lessons I learned from my military dad.

Liberty University Institute for Military Resilience June 2017 Blog.

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Leadership doesn’t have to be aggressive to be effective

  • Once when I was around 8 years old, I misbehaved in church and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be in trouble when we got home. While I couldn’t tell you today what punishment I was given, the ensuing conversation I had with my genuinely sad dad has never left me: “I’m disappointed, Amanda. You let me down.” Talk about searing the heart of a rebellious daddy’s girl. Nearly twenty years later, and I still remember how I knew instantly I never wanted to let him down again. The lesson is this – be the kind of leader that your followers don’t want to let down. That referent leadership style helped dad navigate some tough situations, not just as the father of five daughters but also as NCO of some rough-around-the-edges Ammo airmen.


Laughter always soothes the strain

  • As the son of West Virginia coal-miners, farmers, and down-to-earth country folk, my dad never lost his sense of humor and good-natured ability to laugh at himself, even when his service took him far from his childhood home. As a teenager, I remember being embarrassed by the lame dad jokes and silliness that would all too often beset our family dinners, but now that I’m older I realize how lucky I was that he could come home at the end of the day and just enjoy being with his family. His job was serious – working with bombs every day required constant vigilance and a heavy burden of responsibility. When I start to feel the strain of my own responsibilities, I know it’s time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and just laugh at a bad pun with the people who are most important to me.


Service requires a soldier’s resolve

  • I remember weekends when dad would cover first shirt duty for his squadron – the tragedies and challenges, addictions and abuse found in some of his airmen’s lives simply broke his heart. Yet, if that phone rang and there was a need he could meet, he would hop in the car without a moment’s hesitation. The lesson I learned here – and it is still being learned – is that suffering, service, and sacrifice are a package deal. Life is a battle, and often the toughest soldiers are the servants who charge into the fray in order to care for others.


Find something you believe in and dedicate your life to it

  • Finally, the greatest lesson I learned from my dad’s life of military service is the value of commitment. For my dad, he didn’t just dedicate his life to serving our nation through the Armed Forces – his greatest allegiance and commitment has always been to Jesus Christ. As his daughter, I look at his life and see that every sacrifice he made to keep his commitment to our country, to our Constitution, to his fellow service members, to my mom, to my sisters, and to me, is a beautiful picture of what it means to take up your cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).


To all the military dads out there, know that you are appreciated and loved and that your many sacrifices are not without impact. Stay the course. Happy Father’s Day!


About the Author:

Amanda Mitchell is the Special Projects Manager for the Office of Military Affairs, working on special projects and communication initiatives to help connect military students with each other and with the Office of Military Affairs. Amanda is the daughter of a retired Air Force veteran and recently completed the Master of Arts in Strategic Communications with Liberty University. She loves having the opportunity to use her education to serve a population near and dear to her heart - military service members, veterans, and their families studying at Liberty University. 


 
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