It's been a tumultuous last few weeks. Between filming the National Fatherhood Initiative's Fatherhood Awards Gala in DC, prepping for this Father's Day, family and work commitments and then getting sick for about a week, I'm starting to come up for air.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to report is the discovery of an amazing new subject for the film. Sergeant Brian Booker, a step-dad for two kids, was given a fatherhood award at the NFI's event and we had the opportunity to interview him there. It was truly one of the most engaging interviews we've had. Sergeant Booker is incredibly candid and thoughtful and for nearly an hour we were transfixed. I will be posting a clip from this interview but in the meantime, feel free to read the letter Sergeant Booker's wife, Amy, submitted, which won him the award. It's incredibly touching. Enjoy!
I am writing in regards to the nomination of fathers for the 2008 NFI Lockheed Martin Military Fatherhood Award. I would like to nominate my husband, SSG Brian S. Booker of the 155th BSTB for the Mississippi Army National Guard. Let me take this opportunity to tell a little bit of our story. Brian received his mobilization orders in Fall of 2004 to serve a year long tour in Kuwait with the 184th CME. Never having been deployed before, we tried to prepare not only ourselves but mainly our children, Tyler (age 5 at the time) and Whitney (age 8 at the time) for what lied ahead. Brian hung maps of the world in their room showing where he would be, told them not to forget the values and morals they had been taught, introduced them to other deploying soldier’s children, told our son no matter how young he was to be the man of the house and take care of his sister and mother.
During his deployment, a lot changed for our family. The children and I found a house in my husband’s hometown that we loved. This meant we not only got to start over, have our own adventure, but also be closer to our military family, the people who knew our soldier and what we were going through more than anyone else. Brian always went above and beyond to help the Family Readiness Group complete whatever project we had at hand, one of the most memorable being voice recorded messages from the soldiers to the children in their own stuffed animals.
I have never seen such genuine love and emotion come from young children as I did the day they pushed that button and heard their fathers and loved ones talk to them from so many miles away, the tears were so meaningful. Brian always kept in touch with our children, sending cards, emails, checking on their grades, and reminding them how much they are loved and missed. He surprised our children coming home for his two week R&R, they were so elated to look up and see their dad walking towards them in the airport. It was such a nice change from days before as we had been hit with Hurricane Katrina. He did everything he could to take their minds off of what was going on, taking them on their first horseback rides, not letting go when they were scared, fishing, and playing sports. He spent one on one time with each of them reconnecting and letting them know that even though he had to go back to Kuwait he couldn’t wait to be home with them again for good.
Since arriving home from deployment in December 2005, Brian has continuously amazed me as a father. I had been dealing with our sons learning difficulties on my own during the deployment and seemed to get no help no matter where I turned. Brian not only met with teachers, principles, superintendents, but also contacted state officials in order to get the help that was needed not only for our son, but for other children who were obviously having the same difficulties. He is at school anytime he is needed, offering to do whatever he can as a parent to better the school spirit and curriculum, and helps with any extra-curricular activities the children have. He sets an example like no other for all the children around him. He offers information to any family, child, or fellow soldier in any area they may need help in. If he does not know the answer to their problem, he will let nothing stand in his way of finding resources to get the answer needed.
My children have such an amazing role model in their dad, they see him as invincible yet with humbleness. He is a loyal soldier when duty calls, and a father every minute of the day. You see, there is something I haven’t mentioned yet about our story and what truly makes me nominate Brian for this award. Most fathers would be nominated for being a great coach in the delivery room, or changing the most diapers. My husband was not there for that. My children lost their birth father to suicide in May 2004, just months before Brian deployed. It was the most devastating thing we have ever experienced. Brian was what got us through. He did not let the children miss a beat. He picked them up from the pain, wrapped his arms around them, and promised to love them and never let them go or feel that pain ever again. He showed them that life could be good again. He took on children that he never rocked as babies, fed a bottle to, watch take their first step. Yet, he is right beside them fighting for their every need, guiding them through the stages they are in, and helping to mold them into admirable and inspiring people. He loves them as though he were there from their first day. He is not a father that merely tells his children things. Brian shows them, he teaches them so that they can teach others in return. He has turned our life around, given our children reasons to smile again. They have such pride for him and the country that we serve as a family.
Brian is a father like no other, he is our soldier, and hero. I hope you too can see what I see in him as a father. We are so lucky to have him and know that he deserves an award like this for what he has done for our children.
Amy Booker, proud wife of SSB Brian S. Booker