Father-Daughter Lesson from Operation Iraqi Freedom

One of the most vivid memories I have from Operation Iraqi Freedom was a father-daughter moment. We had just finished securing our objectives in the area outside of Aw Samawah and began the push on to our next objective. I noticed a man dressed in a black robe walking from his farm house which was about 200 meters from our convoy. There was nothing threatening about him. He was simply dressed, nothing bulky, and he did not look nervous. In fact, his gait was calm and slow as he walked toward the road where we were driving by. I wondered what we must have looked like to him, and whether or not he heard any news from Baghdad about the invasion, or if this was the first instance when he was learning about the invasion. 

Next to him was a little girl oblivious to the convoy altogether. She was maybe four years old at the oldest. While he looked at us with caution making his way towards what we later realized was his water well, this little girl stayed by his side the entire time occasionally looking up at him. He did not respond in fear, yell at her to go back inside, or anything. He also did not use her as a human shield, so again, there was no threat from him at all. I was amazed at how this little girl was so focused on what I assumed was her daddy. She played alongside him as he walked, trying to fit her steps into her dad’s footsteps jumping from one footprint to another, then running up along side him again. It was as if she had no idea we were this big brown death machine rolling through her front yard in a sense. We were on our way to decapitate her government, and she could care less.

The father reached the well, drew his water, and watched us drive by for a little while longer before turning toward the house and walking home with a bucket of water in one hand. He never looked back at us, but his daughter was falling behind to pick some desert flowers not aware that she was falling behind. Daddy noticed though, and he stopped and waited for her just fifteen or twenty feet away. There was no rush, and it looked like he was enjoying the fact that she could play and be innocent. After a few moments, she looked up and noticed the distance between herself and her father, and he simply held out his hand for her. She skipped up to him and grabbed his hand holding her newly picked flowers in the other, and they walked back to the farm house hand-in-hand. Neither one of them ever looked back at us as we drove away.

I still think about that father-daughter moment as if I just saw it happen. Just a month later, my own daughter, Emma, was born. Being a father to a daughter can be stressful at times, but I often think about that father and how patiently he waited for her, how he calmly kept her safe, and how safe she seemed to feel by how she behaved. That is the kind of father I want to be for my daughter. I want her to feel safe, especially when she is with me, knowing that the world is right because I am in it. It feels great to be loved like that by someone so innocent. Liv likes to tell me when Emma says she misses me if I’m working late, or away from home because of some conference. I think it’s because Liv likes to see me get teary-eyed with joy when I hear about it. As a father to a son also, I hope to set an example for Jacob to follow into manhood.

In many ways, God is like that for all of us, and that is the kind of relationship He wants to have with us. He is there with us while we wander around the fields of this world and discover things on our own, and when we stray too far from Him He is waiting with an outstretched hand to take us back. Many people will jump to the conclusion that God has abandoned us in certain seasons of our lives, but the reality is that we have wandered off. God is still on the same spot on the same path waiting for us to notice Him again and run up to His open hand. He is happy when we spend time with him, and let Him know how much He means to us. I’m okay with making God feel happy. It’s the least I can do. It’s pretty much one of the few things I can do for Him.

(Matthew 18:10-14, Luke 15:7, 11-31)

Leave a Comment