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Ahead of Father's Day, we'll hear voices of fathers from different backgrounds


As we head toward Father's Day on Sunday, we're hearing the voices of fathers from all sorts of backgrounds. Today, it's an Army dad whose combat service kept him far from home for long spells and away from his children.

DUANE JOLLY: And while we were taking fire, I remember thinking, please, God, don't - you know, sorry - don't let me get shot in the back. You know, that's really - what really went through my mind at that time was, you know, my kids, you know? My name is Duane Jolly. I'm a retired sergeant major from psychological operations. I deployed to Afghanistan for three years and I spent one year in Iraq and about two years in Qatar.

FADEL: His wife, Patrice, is still active duty Army. They have three children - a 26-year-old daughter, a 21-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. We reached this Army dad on a rare romantic getaway with his wife in Hawaii.

JOLLY: Oftentimes, just, you know, as a married couple, we don't get a chance to get away for ourselves. So we're down here in Kauai, and I'm sitting on the porch, looking at the ocean and listening to the waves crashing in.

I'd say the - my two oldest kids really caught the worst of it as far as missing out on things. One of the worst parts was my oldest daughter at the time - when I left, she was - I think she was 9. So she was still a little girl - you know, pigtails and such. And then by the time I came back, she'd hit puberty. And that was a bit rough, you know, to leave your little girl and come back and, you know, she's becoming a young woman. I feel like I missed that transition period, you know what I mean?

There's definitely a difference in the attention that my youngest gets. And I will say that when I would leave, it certainly seemed to affect my daughter more than it affected my son. You could see a correlation in my daughter's behavior or even in her grades. You could spot when her dad was gone. You know, her grades would dip down. And then when I came home, you know, her grades would come back up, her behavior would come back up. And then, yeah, with my son, he never really finished any kind of sports. So, for instance, I would start soccer with him, but then I'd deploy and he'd quit. And then, you know, I'd come back and we'd start baseball and - but then I'd deploy, and he'd quit.

I would say that my son is the only one who has even made the comment that, you know, he's not sure about the military because we were gone so much and that he doesn't want that for his family. You know, my older ones know now, of course, what I did. But even, you know, my 12-year-old - luckily for her, she's, you know, had her dad at home more now that I'm retired. She doesn't have to worry about me going to combat anymore. I promised her I'll never miss another one of her birthdays. You know, I will always be home, no matter what I'm doing, for her birthday.

The sacrifices isn't just what the soldier or sailor, Marine makes - or airman. It's also the family. Their daddy, their mommy is not there for a year. You know, they're sacrificing their relationship with their parent. They're sacrificing their time - not just the soldier, not just the sailor, but the kids as well. Even though it does take a toll on the family, I think it's important to serve your country. Serving your country is a noble effort, and I think that the sacrifices that we made were worth it.

FADEL: That's father of three, retired Army Sergeant Major Duane Jolly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.