Answering the Tough Question: "Why Does My Dad Have to Go?"

father and son playing on playground
(Melissa N. Lessard/DVIDS)

“Why does my dad have to go? Can’t someone else go instead?”

This question, raised by my 8-year-old after my husband’s departure for his most recent time away with the Army, stopped me in my tracks. He’d never asked that before, never wondered why his dad was absent or questioned why it was his dad that had to leave. It was just what he knew and before this, he had always just accepted it as part of life. But now, he was well aware that other kids dads didn’t leave for weeks, sometimes months, at a time and he didn’t like it. He wanted answers.

How do you answer that question? Telling him that his dad had to go away for schools, training, and deployments because it was his job wasn’t a good enough answer. He wanted to know why his dad would choose to be away from him. Because he did choose this job after all. He chose to be in the military and he chose to go to this school, so in my son’s eyes, his dad was choosing to be away from him.

These questions from our kids are tough. Giving them the answers they need, in a way that is age-appropriate and in a way they can understand is never an easy task. With my son, honesty has always been the best route. Explaining my husband’s job and his reasons for going away to schools voluntarily can be hard for me, because at times I ask myself the same questions, “Why my husband? How can he stand to be away from us so much?” But I know the answer – he does it because he loves his family.

I’m sure some would say, “Wait, how does that work?” He leaves his family, willingly, for days, weeks, months at a time, because he loves them? Of course, he does not like being away from us. He would much rather be at home, watching his kids play baseball and reading stories to them every night, but by fulfilling his duty to his country, serving in the Army, he is lovingly providing for his family in more ways than one.

First, he is providing a stable income and benefits for his family. He works hard to ensure that his family’s needs are met and we have the care we need. Secondly, he is providing safety for his family. When he spends endless hours in the desert heat thousands of miles away from home, he is making sure that we can sleep peacefully at night without fear. He could leave it to someone else to go, but he feels a great responsibility to his family to ensure our safety. And lastly, he loves his country. He does not feel that he should leave the duty of fighting to keep this country safe and free to someone else. He wants to make sure his children and future grandchildren will grow up in a place where they are free to make their own choices and are free to think as they wish. And to do this, he feels it is his duty to protect that future by serving in the military.

So to answer my son’s question, "Why does my dad have to go," my response was simple: “Because he loves you. He loves you so much that he will do whatever it takes to keep you safe, and sometimes that means being away from us.”

Yes, someone else could go in my husband’s place. He did not have to join the military; it is an all-voluntary force after all. People join the military for many different reasons, but for my husband, as for so many other men and women who serve alongside him, he feels that it is his duty to serve to ensure the safety and freedoms of his families and his countrymen. For these men and women, it is not a duty they take lightly and comes with a heavy sacrifice at times. But it is one that they do out of love. Love of their country. Love of freedom. And the love of their family.

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