How Baseball and Military Dads Motivated Me
This is a guest post by NFI's Director of Military Programming, Tim Red, who heads the organization's efforts to help the U.S. military add fatherhood programming to its work to support military families, pre-, during, and post-deployment.
As a Texas-based dad, baseball fan, and guy who works to support military fathers, last week was a rough one for me. Here's why.
As you have probably heard, a tragedy occurred last week at a Texas Rangers baseball game. Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old father (and firefighter for the Brownwood, TX Fire Department) lunged to catch a ball that was tossed into the crowd by player Josh Hamilton. He stumbled and fell over the railing 20 feet down to the concrete. He was conscious when they left the stadium and voiced concern about his 6-year-old son who was alone up in the stands and had witnessed his dad fall. Stone had driven a couple of hours from Brownwood to Arlington to take his son to his first Rangers game, and they had stopped at a sporting goods store to buy a new glove in the hopes that they would snag a ball at the game.
Stone had a massive heart attack on his way to the hospital and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Hamilton, the most important ball player for the Texas Rangers, is also a dad. He came back to baseball four years ago after years of drug abuse. His experiences have made him a very humble superstar, and as a father, he has talked about how Stone's death has affected him. He plans on reaching out to Stone's wife and son and helping them "when the time is right." He knows, as a dad himself, what a dads' sudden absence can mean to a family, and he wants to help.
On top of hearing about this heart-wrenching tragedy non-stop in the Dallas news, I also read four distressing testimonies by military dads. They were distressing in the respect that these dads are looking for answers about how to better support their families, but they are not finding them within the current support structures in the military. As a retired National Guard dad, I want them to have these answers. NFI wants them to have these answers. But it has been a slow process changing a "military family culture" that has been so focused on the stay-at-home family that it often forgets that dads need help, too.
But I am going to turn lemons into lemonade and use these dads' testimonies as weapons to use in my negotiations with Military Family Programs around the country. I am hopeful that these dads' words will show folks just how important it is to support our nation's military fathers.
My rough week, as hard as it was, really reminded me that the work we do here at NFI is more important than ever. So, watch out - I have some lemonade to make!