As a Marine, one of the most sacred places we can visit is Iwo Jima, it is a small island in the Pacific, and until WWII, it had little significance in the world. Being stationed in Okinawa, it is only a short flight on a C-130 but getting on the list of people to go isn’t easy.
This island holds a special place for Marines because it is where the famous picture of the flag being raised on Mount Suribachi was taken, and more importantly, it is where close to 70,000 Marines fought and close to 7,000 gave their lives in the name of freedom.
You can imagine how much of an honor it felt to visit such a place, and I had just about two months left on active duty.
I remember the ride over well because it was my first time in a C-130, and if you have never flown on one, it’s just a fancy cargo net and a row of Marines next to you hanging on. No windows, no snacks, just you and your eyelids trying to catch up on sleep if you can with all the bumps.
When you arrive, they start you off on the long walk to Mt. Suribachi, and you see the pillboxes where the Japanese would be fighting the landing force, and you get a real sense of what the war must have felt like for those who were there.
If you have never been to a WWII battle site, not much can prepare you for the thoughts that flood through you.
I remember getting to the base of the Mountain and walking up the winding road to the top and thinking about how the Marines must have felt walking up this hill not knowing where the enemy was or if they would make it.
That time on the island is a sacred memory for me that I think back on often and draw strength from the journey and knowing my deeper connection to the brotherhood of earning the title of Marine. I will never forget the gift of freedom those that didn’t come home gave me.
And now, as a Father, I think about how often we can feel alone in the world, how often we don’t know what might hurt us around the corner. Or if we will make it to see our kids walk down the aisle.
I think about what it means to have brothers alongside you fighting every day to keep your family safe. I think about how we lost this virtue along the way, and now men are told you are supposed to do it alone, keep your feelings on lockdown, and dress sadness with the words, good and fine.
I think about what we could fight for as a country when we came together.
I think about how far we could go if we united ourselves in the pursuit to be good Fathers like we have in the quest to protect our freedom.
Being a Dad was never designed to be done in a vacuum, and like earning the title of becoming a Marine doesn’t happen when you raise your right hand, becoming a Dad isn’t something that happens when your kids are born. Instead, it’s something you become every day by surrounding yourself with people ahead of you and people behind you and developing a never-quit mindset because it’s no longer just about you in this world.
Becoming a Dad is an invitation every day to become more and fight against the harm in this world, to teach our kids where to find love, joy, and purpose in life.
And just like the fiery that the Marines brought to Iwo Jima, we, too as Dads, can break the cycle of generational trauma caused by Dads not being an active role in a kid’s life.
You first have to see what you want to leave behind, and second, you need to know the kind of Dad you want to become.