Charlotte resident David Englert served 21 years in the military, first in the Marines, then in the Air Force.
Just before his 18-year-old son Logan left for college, the two sat down to talk about their life together as a military family.
“I know that I missed your second through tenth birthdays," David told his son. "I remember telling you I was going to Afghanistan and I said ‘Hey buddy, I’m really sorry I’m not going to be here for your birthday,’ and you looked at me — you were nine at the time — and said, ‘That’s OK Dad, you’ve never been to any of my birthdays.’ My heart got ripped in three pieces.”
“I think at the time I thought it was really normal because we were friends with a lot of military people,” Logan said. “I think that’s one thing that’s great about the military, all the spouses and kids understand. They really rely on each other and help each other out.”
When David was first deployed, just after 9/11, his wife was pregnant with Logan.
“They just sent us away,” he said. “We didn’t know if we were ever coming back. So I wrote a letter a day to you, just in case I’d never see you.”
David wrote to his unborn son with life advice and a plea for understanding.
"If I didn't come back, I didn't want him to ever be angry at anybody else," said David. "It was my decision."
The Englert family saved those letters, nearly 90 in all, along with other mementos David sent home to stay in touch with his children throughout his many deployments.
“Those are the scary memories that turned out to be good memories,” said David.
This conversation was produced by North Carolina Public Radio WUNC as part of StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative, and made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.