Father is always with me

by Emmanuel Barbosa Gonzalez
Stripes Guam

Editor’s note: Emmanuel Barbosa Gonzalez is a hardworking sailor aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in Yokosuka, Japan. He’s also the loving father of 3-year-old son Leonardo and the author of “Father is Always With Me,” a children’s book dealing with the uncertainty and fear military children go through when their parents deploy. You can check out the book at www.amazon.com.

My son Leonardo turned three last year, but while he was still two years old he went through a very difficult time in his life. You see Leonardo endured his first PCS and deployment. But, before this even happened, he had to endure being separated from his dad for 2 months while I was away in Pensacola for training.

The last words he said to me, were “no say good-bye father” as I hugged him one last time. This was very hard for him since Leo had not seen his dad for 2 months aside from the voice chat and Skype calls. When I finally saw him again, he was staying at an auntie’s house with his mommy, and Leo was so happy to see his daddy that he couldn’t even look at me straight in the eyes.

Needless to say, that I was extremely happy to see him. He did not, however give me any hugs or kisses until we finally reached the house. I presume this was some slight resentment over the apparent “abandonment” from me. But, Leo knew he wasn’t home despite staying over at the Aunt Martha’s house. Leonardo knew his home was back in California and didn’t know how to properly explain to him that “home” was a state of mind, not a place.

Eventually we reached our new duty station in Yokosuka, Japan, and it wasn’t without pains. We had gotten base housing, and even had our furniture all in place, but Leo wasn’t convinced that this was home and still wanted to get back to California. It was during that same week that I had received word of my impending deployment. Not even 2 weeks after my arrival, the ship I was stationed in set out to sea, I once again had “abandoned” Leonardo.

I missed him dearly during this time, but eventually got to see him on Skype, and lo and behold he did not even say “I love you daddy.” I was heartbroken. When my tour finally ended and I returned home, he did not want me to pick him up or had the same excitement he showed when I left for Pensacola.

However, when we returned to our apartment. He was suddenly the happiest child in the world. He couldn’t get enough of his dad, and was extremely bubbly. I was in the heavens and super glad that my boy had finally warmed up to me. He and I went everywhere, from Odaiba to Yokohama, and visited all sorts of places.

But, then I had to go back to work that following Monday. Leo couldn’t sleep that night, he spent a long time crying in bed next to me. When we asked him why he couldn’t sleep, his reply was even more crushing than I imagined. Leonardo said “father is going back to Navy tomorrow, and I don’t want him to go” suddenly the reality of what my sacrifice truly entailed hit me like a brick. Leo started crying, and I was crying as I tried to console him. Leonardo was scared of the next time I would leave him alone for a long time, and it would only be six months until that happened.

Now it’s April and this all happened in December. My deployment happens very soon, and instead of waiting idly by, I wrote him a book.

I called it “Father is Always With me” and even had it published on Kindle and Amazon. It details the story of Leonardo, and tries to show children that despite these changes being scary it is all right to be anxious or that it is fine to cry since it helps children and adults deal with their feelings.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book that tells our “military brats” how much we truly love them and that in spite of all the distance between us. We are always with them in our hearts and minds. I hope one day Leo is reading this article and realizes how much I truly love him. He is the force that drives me forward every day because this job is difficult and I absolutely will go through it to see him smile.

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