Father’s Day is a time to celebrate dads everywhere. But serving dads — whether military dads or first responder dads — deserve special appreciation for the uncommon challenges they face while serving, whether directly or indirectly.

The different types of serving dads

All serving dads are included in Father’s Day, but what does that term include?

Military dad and first responder dad are terms that can apply to many people. It can be a father serving in the armed forces or a first responder unit to a mother, son or daughter at home. It includes a dad supporting a serving mom. Just as the term “military family” refers to any proud kin who’s there for a related servicemember, a military dad is any type of serving dad.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

Unique challenges serving dads face

Depending on the role of the military or first responder dad in their family, each faces unique challenges to be recognized and appreciated on Father’s Day.

Serving dads can be called to duty at any time, leaving their families for as long as their service is needed. Military dads are often required to relocate frequently, perhaps staying in one location for no more than a few months before being redeployed elsewhere. This forces them to leave shallow roots in their former place of residence to grow new ones elsewhere, which can cause stress to everyone in the family.

Being in the armed forces or a first responder unit inherently involves a degree of danger. For the serving dad, they must come to terms with the worry they may impose on those at home. The serving dad works all hours, day or night, whenever he’s called to action, which can potentially make communication with family members at home difficult.

The dad who supports his serving family member is on the other end of this. Perhaps they worry for a mother, son or daughter who serves. Maybe they, too, are facing the difficulties of keeping in touch when their servicemember could potentially be halfway around the world, or a first responder works 12-hour shifts, from evening to morning the next day.

Serving dads sacrifice uncommonly to serve their country and community. It is important to acknowledge this on Father’s Day, whether you’re a friend or family member of one.

Ideas for celebrating serving dads

What a serving dad may appreciate most differs from one to the next, but almost all would cherish a special gesture or two on Father’s Day. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Write them a letter by hand

The difference between a phone call and a letter is permanence. Serving dads would almost certainly appreciate a phone call, but having a genuine letter carries a special significance. When times are toughest, the serving dad can take the time to stop, feel the paper in their hands and read the letter as many times as they wish.

Include a printed photo as an added bonus that they’ll be sure to appreciate.

Pay them a visit

If possible, go to where the serving dad is and spend some time with them.

Being a good listener can come in handy here. A serving dad to a military or first responder family member may have fewer opportunities than they’d prefer to talk about their challenges.

If you think they’d appreciate it, take them out to a favorite place of theirs, whether it’s a park, restaurant or some other special location.

However you show your appreciation on Father’s Day, do it with sincerity

Feel free to use one of these ideas or think of something special yourself. Few are the serving dads who wouldn’t feel their spirits lifted at a Father’s Day gift — especially those that carry a sincere gesture from the heart.