Army Values Applied to The Military Dad Living With Autism # 7 – Personal Courage

The final value we’ll discuss in this series, is the Army Value of “Personal Courage.”

How we can apply this value to the exceptional military family is by acting boldly, despite the fears, anxieties, complexities and uncertainty that raising children with autism causes in the home. Have you ever asked any of the following?

“Will I choose the right treatment methods to help my child?”

“Will I be able to handle all the additional stress and burden that comes with autism?”

“Will I be able to handle the additional stress it is putting on our marriage?”

“Is it even worth it for me to stay in this marriage and family or am I better just cutting ties and bailing on them?”

“How will we be able to afford the additional financial burdens that autism brings to the family budget?”

“How will my wife handle the special needs of my kids while I am deployed? Will she be able to do it on her own without me?”

“What will happen if I get killed in combat? How could she endure with the kids then and how could she continue on in the struggle at home without my support?”

“How can we fight this well-financed school district with their high-profile law firms because we disagree with the way they are educating my autistic child?”

“Where will I ever find the strength to fight and advocate for my child’s rights and for their acceptance in society?”

We have asked all of these questions in our family! Sometimes we’ll even still find ourselves asking them today!

Courage is not acting without fear, it is acting despite fear. Those fears are still there but you choose to hang on to a higher order, or higher power that allows you to function anyway with the hope that it is all going to work out for the best that it can.

It takes personal courage to do the right thing for your family, for your spouse, for your children. It takes faith in action when you are put into uncomfortable situations that you know only you are assigned with. Personal courage allows for you to act, despite those fears, anxieties, complexities and uncertainty.

Our family has found comfort to answer many of these questions in our Christian faith. We move forward boldly into those fearful areas of the unknown that care for our autistic kids requires such as IEPs, due processes, treatments, rights for the disabled and many others that require our action. Many of which we’re NOT prepared for. But, we do it anyway. We believe that if we put forth the effort, God will provide the assist and help clear obstacles to success for us. We have this faith in our choice of treatment methods, the educational rights we advocate for, the choices we make in vaccinations and many other areas of life.

All require personal courage.

You have it too. In life, you are never given anything that you haven’t been first properly prepared for – even if you don’t even know it yet. Your autistic kiddos have been provided to you for a purpose. If you didn’t already demonstrate personal courage in your life, you would have never been given the gift (and challenge) of raising an autistic child!

In Advocacy,

Mike

Army Values Applied to The Military Dad Living With Autism # 4 – Selfless Service

This is a big one for me. It also one that I struggle with personally as a human. See, it’s not naturally in the human makeup to live a life in selfless service to others or a higher purpose. We tend to be creatures who take care of our own needs first. We tend more to “look out for #1″. Now, I’m not talking about the basics of life like Maslow’s needs of shelter, food, sex, etc that we need as
human beings. I am talking about living a life that focuses on the needs of others MORE than our personal needs.

This is tough. I struggle with it all the time.

That last piece of chocolate cake in the fridge – do I eat it…or, do I save it for my sweetheart? There appears to be an elderly couple in the car right behind me as I am pulling into the parking lot of the grocery store and that front spot is wide open! Do I take it…or, do I pass it by so the elderly couple can have an easier time parking and walking into the store?

See what I mean?

Now, try to build your character around a lifetime of selfless service – putting others needs before your own – dying to “self” if you’ll allow me to speak biblically for a moment. Now, I’m not trying to preach my Christian faith upon you, but one cannot deny that the Bible is full of tried and true principles of character and integrity. It also contains some of the greatest examples of humans who lived by these examples (as well as many who didn’t and the ramifications of these decisions of their free will – always a bad ending and a lesson to learn from, lol). One verse that is on my mind as I struggle with the predicament of selfish behavior is this on in Luke 9, verse 23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

This simply reminds me that I need to focus on the higher order of life and eternity in order to act and serve appropriately here on earth.

For those in the Army, selfless service is that value where one is willing to even go as far as put their own life on the line for their comrades and for their country. These men and women are truly living the calling of “denying themselves” and focusing on the greater service to nation.

We have the same charge when we look at the exceptional needs of our autistic children and the spouse who supports the love and care through these special needs at home. Just the fact alone that you have an autistic child at home REQUIRES, yes, REQUIRES that you live a life of selfless service to the needs of your wife and your children. Leaders lead by example. As leaders of our households men, it is incumbent on us to lead by example and put the needs of our wives and children first. And we need to do this above our careers in the military, above any sports, hobbies or interests and yes, even above Sunday NFL Football! I know! I told you this is tough stuff. I struggle with this myself.

I find it easiest to get through those seasons of selfish desires by consciously (and prayerfully) reminding myself of the great charge that I have been given by being blessed with a supportive spouse in the autism battle with me and three deserving boys who deserve my personal best. Putting selfish desires first only strips my family of the opportunity I can provide them by providing proper leadership and service by caring for their needs. The whole reason I am in the Army now is primarily so I could focus on the special needs of my boys. Paying out of pocket for the required ABA treatment my boys needed was starting to break the bank, even on a good six
figure income! At the time I even had the promise of growing one of the companies I owned into a very lucrative financial position in the years ahead. But, that selfish interest in the moment was not in the best interest of my boys who needed help RIGHT NOW. The decision was easy when I followed the order of priorities in my life and put selfless service first for the benefit of my family.

God

Spouse

Children

Career

Yes, career is after family in my order of priorities. Sorry, I can always make money someplace else. And if my selfless service in the Army ever interferes with the selfless service I need to provide for my wife and children, then the Army will be removed from the picture. So, before I get to far in the woods about prioritizing or ordering your life, I’ll stop right here. We’ll save that
discussion for another day.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Army Values Applied to The Military Dad Living With Autism # 1 – Loyalty

You have to love the military and its use of acronyms. There is one for everything! As a matter of fact, the seven Army Values can even be easily remembered as an acrostic, where the beginning letter of each value spell out LDRSHIP (or leadership). I have these words posted up on 8X10s near my desk for all to see. As I happen to be deep in tough I was really meditating on those words and couldn’t help but think of my role as a husband, father, Army leader and lead advocate for our boys and the special needs they have. I thought I’d take a moment and try to remember and capture some of the thoughts I had earlier today. I’ll have to take one value at a time as I know that I am going to get on a rant, and I don’t want to write a thesis!

Now, for some of you this may be some pretty direct stuff. Much of this will probably challenge you greatly. No one is harder on me than, well, me! I demand more of myself than anyone else does. I work hard to self-discipline my mind, heart and will to conform to a higher order of operation. So, when you are reading some of these below remember that I am telling them just as much to myself personally to remind myself of my God-given charge in life in these roles above. If at any point, I start to raise your blood pressure and tick you off, then just tell yourself that I’m writing this for the other guy reading this…not you. Savvy? Ok, here goes…

LOYALTY

To be loyal one has to have trust and commitment in the long term. It is the attitude of being sold out. To be wholly committed to the cause without the possibility of a wandering eye toward other people, goals or pleasures. Loyalty continues through the good and the bad and endures the sways of short term thoughts, feelings and activities. The best example I can think of is the family dog. That dog is loyal to his master. He eagerly awaits the return home from work, and he does this everyday! He could have been scolded or punished the night before, but right now that doesn’t matter. He can’t wait for his master’s return. He may get distracted momentarily with playing with the kids or to gnaw on a bone, but as soon as he here’s the garage door! It’s ON! HE’S HOME! And as soon as the master walks in the door, his faithful and loyal dog is there to greet him with happiness. Right, wrong or indifferent, that dog expresses loyalty.
I have absolute loyalty to my family. There is nothing that could lead me astray or pull me away from the loyalty I have for the bond with my wife and role as a father. I am loyal to my wife. I don’t look at other women and certainly never put myself in compromising positions in work or life to threaten this. And when we have disagreements, arguments and fights (yes, there are levels of escalation) I remain loyal to my wife. If we’re having an argument it is a 90% chance I am to blame for it anyway! I am so disappointed how many married men I work with that can’t resist that gaze they give to women. That lustful, improper gaze. Like loyalty, being disciplined in your thought-life is a choice to make daily. See, men were designed with free will. It is a choice to remain loyal to your wife. It is a choice to remain loyal to your autistic kids. Being loyal makes life that much easier. When you are committed with 100% of your heart and mind to the total welfare and care of another person and are sold out in common cause to the responsibilities in life that you share together, then it is a choice you only have to make one time! I don’t want to hear about how it’s OK to look. Sorry, it’s not. Would any man prefer to have their wife staring and perhaps fantasizing about total strangers when he is not around? Worse yet, when he is right there! Just the thought alone makes you question your loyalty. When the decision has been made to be loyal, then it is easy to discipline those thoughts to just say no when tempted. Same goes for the kids. I am loyal to my children. I will never leave them, their mother or put them in a position where I am not their #1 fan and caregiver. Autism makes life extremely difficult – almost maddening at times. Your wife, your kids, deserve your loyalty. A wise friend once told me shortly after I started my family that I “no longer live life for myself.” How true that is. It is so sad to hear about father’s who give up on the autistic family – abandon their wife. Chicken out. Wimp out. Wuss out. What kind of cowardly man believes that he can just walk away from his responsibilities and leave a wife to cope alone and children to not have a strong, loving, caring father to assist with the development. Shame on those cowards. My family can count that I will never be that man. I love and embrace the challenge. They can count on my loyalty as long as there is breathe in my body. I will always be there for my wife and for my boys.

If you have been struggling with loyalty to your wife and/or family, please reach out to me. I’d love to try to help you. Perhaps provide some encouraging words or share with you ways that I strengthen my commitment in life. Military men understand loyalty to country. I encourage you to show that same level of faith and commitment to your special needs family at home. They deserve it!

In Advocacy,

Mike