I have learned more in the past 5 years about being a dad than I could ever have imagined. I am a father to two children, Jesse who I guide towards adulthood, and Jaime who I visit at the cemetery. My commitment to both is intense. I will always be responding and reacting to what happens to my kids. For my son Jesse, that means making sure he can live his best life independently, productively, and with independence from my wife and me. We are here to make sure that he has everything he needs to make his own decisions about how to live his life as he is now a young adult. I look forward to the memories that he and I will make as two adults enjoying our time together. For Jaime, my choices are different. I will always be holding on to every photo, video, and memory so that she always occupies as much of my mind and heart as Jesse does. Because of what happened to Jesse and Jaime in the Parkland shooting, my life has changed. I now spend my life working to stop the next one, the next instance of gun violence. I now spend my life trying to stop the next parent from understanding what I now know. What I now understand and know as a dad, is how my decisions on how to be a great dad and take care of my kids matter in ways that I did not understand before. I now understand that my voice, which has been loud since the shooting, should have been loud before the shooting. I now understand that protecting my children should have involved a commitment to advocacy, politics, and reducing gun violence before it was my children involved in a school shooting, before Jaime was killed, and not after.
I need more dads to understand that being a dad means far more than spending quality time with kids at a ballpark, in a dance studio, doing homework, going to the movies, taking vacations, and sitting on the couch to watch a favorite television show. Being a dad also means a relentless commitment to the safety of those we love the most, our kids. Over the past few years, I have tried to get dads to become more involved with gun safety through my initiative #DadsForGunSafety. My goal is to engage dads who are gun owners and dads who are not. We all love our children and want to protect them.
Going forward, we dads need to talk more to each other and not at each other. Let’s talk about how gun owners and non-gun owners can work together to reduce the gun violence death rate. Let’s talk about how we can work together to reduce the instances of gun violence. And unfortunately, let’s also talk about how we can work together to reduce the impact and injuries from gun violence when gun violence does happen. Let’s find areas of common agreement and let’s commit to voting only for candidates committed to the importance of reducing gun violence.
Because of what happened to my family, my wife and I are committed to helping other families affected by gun violence. Our foundation Orange Ribbons for Jaime, through our PAWS OF LOVE initiative is now providing companion dogs to families affected by gun violence along with all first year needs such as food, medical, training, crate, toys, grooming, etc. Sadly, we do understand that more families and parents will become a part of this horrible American reality. We are there for you when that happens.
I miss the days of my complete family. I miss Father’s Day where we could celebrate our love for each other. For the rest of my life, Father’s Day will not be about celebration, it will be about commitment. My commitment is to you and the safety of those you love most. Please become a part of this effort before you learn what I now know.
‘ Orange Ribbons Dad ‘