Specialist Dakota Madison of the United States Army will miss Father’s Day this year while deployed overseas. Above, Madison and his son James are pictured before his latest tour of duty.
Specialist Dakota Madison of the United States Army will miss Father’s Day this year while deployed overseas. Above, Madison and his son James are pictured before his latest tour of duty.

His dad ‘has got your back’

Published 6:22pm Friday, June 14, 2013

Specialist (E4) Dakota Madison will not be home Sunday to spend Father’s Day with his one-year-old son, James, but one of the toddler’s shirts, a camouflage-print onesie he has outgrown since his father last saw him, says all you need to know about the family – “My daddy’s got your back,” it reads.

Dakota, who was awarded the Purple Heart in 2010 at the age of 18 after sustaining injuries during a mortar attack in Afghanistan, has certainly proven he “has the back” of the people and country he serves. Dakota has not seen his son since November 4, 2011, when he was deployed back to war-torn Afghanistan only six months after James’ birth.

His wife, Lynthia, says his absence is tough on the family, especially on holidays like Father’s Day.

“This will be his first Father’s Day away,” she said. “We knew he was going to be gone, but he’s getting ready to come home in the next month and half.”

Even though Dakota is scheduled to rejoin his family soon, Lynthia said there are still obstacles that make the distance hard to cope with.

“They’ve stopped receiving mail because he’ll be home soon, so we can’t even send him a gift,” she said. “So we’ll just give it to him when he gets home.”

Lynthia said the last year at Fort Stewart, Ga. has been tough without her husband, for both her and James, but added a combination of technology and good support has helped her family through hard times like the one they will face Sunday without Dakota.

“It can get hard, but I have friends that also have husbands that are deployed,” she said. “We pretty much communicate with him through Facebook and Skype. With their Internet there, sometimes the connection isn’t good, but he gets phone calls every now and then.”

Lynthia said she is thankful for the technology because it gives their son a way to see his father through more than just pictures.

“He knows that dad is the one on the computer,” she said. “That’s how he perceives him right now. I can show him a picture of Dakota and he’ll point and say “da-da” and smile, or he’ll point or touch the computer.”

Although he is half a world away and nine hours ahead of his family in Georgia (ten hours ahead of his family at home in Atmore), Dakota himself said he will be thinking of his family on Sunday.

“I have missed all the other holidays since I have been gone too,” Dakota said over Facebook. “I’m gonna be on my way out of Afghanistan in a few days.”

Until then, Dakota said he will continue his work, helping Special Forces train Afghan police in the Paktika province.

“Everything is packed and ready to go,” he said.

Until then, Lynthia said she and James will be thinking of their “hero.”

“We just want him to know that we love him and we are very proud of him,” she said. “He’ll always be our hero and the best father we could ask for for our son.”

Lynthia said having their son with her as they wait on Dakota has been an extra comfort to her.

“It makes it easier having a part of (Dakota) with me. Even though he’s not physically there.”

Lynthia said she hopes other families with deployed parents, spouses or siblings, will find comfort as well during difficult holidays and that families with loved ones at home will remember how blessed they are.

“I think with being a military spouse over holidays and special days like tomorrow, it’s important for everybody to really understand how important these days are,” she said. “We learn to value these holidays more than we used to. To some, it may not be that big of a day. To me and to James and Dakota, it’s something really important.”

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