My first Father's Day

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joel Pfiester
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

It was exactly this time last year when I found out news that would change my life forever. Now, I am celebrating my first Father’s Day as a dad.

It’s crazy to think about how much has happened between then and now—it still feels like I just received the news.

My girlfriend, Casey, and I had been in a long distance relationship for a little more than a year. Having known each other since the third grade, we were each other’s first crush and had reconnected after all these years. I traveled from Missouri to my home state, Florida, to spend time with Casey, which eventually blossomed into me taking leave to see her, or her taking time off to visit me here each month.

It was on June 12, 2017 when I received a message from her. I was leaving work for the day and she sent me a photo of two positive pregnancy tests. As soon as Casey got off work, she called me. I’m not sure I’d ever been more excited to hear anything in my life. We were both at a loss for words with an overwhelming sense of excitement and happiness. But the feelings were also accompanied by a sense of panic.

You see, I was slated to deploy at the end of the following month, which meant I would miss nearly all of the pregnancy, and potentially the birth of my first child. On top of that, there were many other factors causing me stress over the situation; we were still in a long distance relationship; Casey has a very good job that she enjoys, and she owns a home in Florida.

Meanwhile, as my deployment loomed, the topic of marriage came up between Casey and I. We realized having a baby is not cheap, and the benefits of being a military spouse and the access to healthcare are hard to beat. Plus, if anything were to happen to me while I was deployed, I wouldn’t want them to be left with nothing.

After getting her family’s permission and discussing it at length, I asked Casey to marry me. My officer-in-charge held a low-key but lovely ceremony at his home and we were married on July 5, 2017. We spent the rest of that month enjoying being newlyweds and parents-to-be before I left for the desert.  

Although I wasn’t able to be there in person for the duration of her pregnancy, we were able remain in close contact almost daily. We even found out the baby’s gender together while on FaceTime. Casey’s mother asked a local bakery to bake a cupcake filled with colored icing on the inside. She cut into it, revealing baby blue filling. We were thrilled to be having a little boy.

Having been a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan my whole life, I immediately started to order baby swag for my son. I couldn’t wait to have him grow up watching games with his old man. Things were going really well. I was learning a lot during my first deployment while being able to keep in touch with my wife and know how things were progressing. My scheduled return to the United States was about two weeks before my wife’s due date, but our son had other plans.

Our little man decided he was ready to come into this world three weeks early and my wife’s water broke on January 20. Thankfully, my deployed leadership gave me time off to FaceTime with her during his birth. On January 21, after nearly 26 hours of labor, Julian Paul Pfiester was born, sharing the same birthday as his mother. Although things didn’t pan out how I had initially hoped and I wasn’t able to be there in person, I’m extremely grateful that I still witnessed Julian’s first breath.

I returned back to the states shortly after and was able to hold him for the first time. I took some leave on top of my paternity days and got to spend quality time with my little new family. We even watched the Eagles win their first-ever Super Bowl, which was an incredible experience.

I’ve since returned to Whiteman and am back at work while Julian and Casey are down in Florida. We figured that in the meantime it’s best for them to stay put until I get orders to a new duty station, instead of having them move to Whiteman just to move again. We will continue to make monthly trips until we can all be under the same roof.

I’m very grateful for the leadership I had both deployed and at my home station who helped me through the process, from the day we found out we were going to be parents, to the birth and now. My Air Force family has taken care of me and my little family and I look forward to seeing where the rest of our journey takes us.

This Father’s Day, I’ll be in Florida with my family making up for lost time, while looking back on how wild this new experience of being a father has been. Being a father in the military has given me a greater sense of appreciation for my family. While you’re working long hours, frequently going on TDYs or being deployed downrange, you being to notice how much your spouse does in your absence, which in turn drives you to carry your weight when it comes to parental duties. Being in the profession of arms, I’ve learned to cherish the time we spend together because you never know when your duties may pull you away. Julian and Casey are the most amazing things I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m so proud to call him my son, and her my wife.