CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
He was the first one to cradle your tiny body in his arms before giving you a warm kiss on the forehead and whisper “I love you,” into your ear. He helped change your diapers and clean the mess of you made on the high chair at dinner. He taught you how to throw a baseball, ride a bike, and drive a car. Fathers have indispensable roles in their children’s lives. They are providers, teachers, protectors, and friends.
This Father’s Day, we honor military fathers like Fallsington, Penn., Marine Maj. Kevin Bicking, who makes sure he’s there for his loving wife and seven kids even on deployment.
Bicking works as the staff secretary for 2nd Marine Division (Forward), a job some may think to be quite a challenge. He works directly for the division’s chief of staff and commanding general as an administrative assistant and the section officer-in-charge responsible for their support requirements. It may be a lot for just one man to handle, but when Bicking isn’t chiseling away at his daily tasks, he takes the little spare time he has to stay connected with his loving family back home.
“I think it’s important that I keep in touch with my kids because if I don’t, then they begin to wonder why,” explained the 2000 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “You have to really put in the effort to see how they’re doing.”
Bicking, who is currently serving on his third deployment, knows the difficult circumstances that come with being deployed and leaving your family for long periods of time. Surprisingly, over the course of 14 years of marriage, the 19 year Marine veteran believes deployments really strengthen family bonds.
“When you (come home) from deployment, it’s like you get to know each other all over again,” explained Bicking, who’s been there for every single one of his children’s births. “You learn so many new things about the kids like ‘he’s crawling now, he talks now, she’s into this now,’ and it brings you even closer together.”
Like most fathers, he lives for moments like that. The moments where he gets to see his kids succeed through life’s hurdles are Bicking’s favorite part about being a Dad.
He said whether it’s building Lego’s, passing a challenging test, or watching their face light up when they get to tell you how well they did are the best parts about fatherhood.
He recalled a moment with one of his sons. He had just moved to Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the two were working on a fence. They decided to go inside the house for dinner and his son looked to Bicking and said “Dad, I’m glad you’re my dad.” The young boy at that moment left an impression on his father that he holds dear to his heart.
“Those are the moments that you can’t buy or win over,” explained Bicking. “Those are just moments that are the honest to God truth and are so pure.”
During the interview, Bicking paused for a second as if to be reminiscing on those unforgettable moments that each of his seven children have given him. Only seconds passed before he brought to mind another cherished memory with one of his daughters.
“I remember coming back from a deployment to Iraq in 2003. I was on a ship and was able to talk to my family. My oldest daughter got on the phone and started to sing ‘Proud to be an American’ to me,” said Bicking. “Operation Iraqi Freedom was extremely kinetic and I was coming home a new combat veteran. It just choked me up inside. She in her own little way showed she was proud of her dad.”
According to Bicking, that’s when you truly know how appreciated you really are. So, while the common gifts on Father’s Day in America consist of a new flat screen television or a 150-piece tool set, the perfect gift might not always require you to break open the piggy bank.
In Fact, Bicking said a perfect father’s day gift for him would be a walk through the park with his family or a simple “Happy Father’s day” with a hug.
“Dad doesn’t necessarily have to be showered with gifts, just appreciated. Sometimes words are the best way,” added Bicking, who has served as a Marine for more than 19 years. “Besides, there’s only so much space in a garage for tools.”