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Who is the military's best dad?

May. 9, 2012 - 10:16AM   |   Last Updated: May. 9, 2012 - 10:16AM  |  
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An Army dad, Navy dad and Air Force dad are vying for the 2012 Military Fatherhood Award, with voting open through noon on May 25.

The National Fatherhood Initiative, which winnowed 450 candidates down to three, is asking the public to make the final decision by">voting on its Facebook page. Videos made by the three families using brand-new HD cameras donated to each of the finalists are featured on the site.

The award will be presented near Father's Day at the base where the winner is stationed. The winner also receives a package of prizes that will be made public when the award is given, said Vincent DiCaro, spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative. And Huggies will donate one diaper for each vote to the National Diaper Bank Network and will donate 100,000 diapers to the winner's base.

The finalists are:

Navy Lt. Dennis Kelly, a chaplain at Camp Pendleton, Calif., works to support other military dads while striving to improve himself as father to his five children, according to his wife Brandy, who nominated him.

During his last deployment, Kelly planned "family time" into his daily schedule writing letters, drawing pictures, making video recordings or phone calls. When he's home, he makes it a point to spend one-on-one time with each child, planning activities that each one enjoys.

In addition, he reaches out to other kids by coaching his daughter Sarah's soccer team, participating as den leader for son Caleb's Cub Scouts pack, helping lead daughter Hope's church group and participating in gymnastics class with sons Micah and Seth.

At Camp Pendleton, he has developed curriculum for parenting classes to be offered monthly at his battalion, and he works in several other programs for families and fathers.

Senior Airman Jonathan Jackson may be a relatively young 26, but he has fostered six children and adopted two. He brings his children pictures and mementos that help them understand how his job helps people around the world he is a boom operator on a KC-10 in the 6th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

Before he deploys, he lets his children pick out one of his T-shirts to wear anytime they want to feel closer to him. They, in turn give him one of their favorite toys. He shares video conferencing sessions with his children daily.

Jackson also works to help other military families, according to Capt. Curtis Raaberg, who nominated him. Jackson and his wife volunteer to babysit for single parents in their community, both to give them a break and let them perform extended military duties. His efforts ensured one single mother could work until the base child development center had space for her child.

Army 1st Lt. William Edwards, now stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., stays connected to his four children in creative ways. While he was deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division Band for 14 months to Iraq in 2007-2008, he sent letters and emails, chatted on the webcam, sent photo discs, wrote poetry about each child and made movies, according to his wife, Esther, who nominated him.

"He even tried to send us a stuffed camel spider, but it wouldn't get through customs," she wrote.

While deployed, he helped other soldiers create home movies for their children and produced a Christmas DVD for each family of the deployed band soldiers.

Edwards teaches his children to play trumpet, drums and bass guitar. He calls his family band "Eddie's Experiment" and books gigs for them. He even takes his son fishing an activity Edwards intensely dislikes, according to his wife.

"Military life challenges families with long separations as well as unexpected surprises and hardships at every turn, but I'm glad my kids have a dad to guide them, love them, and to just get silly with them," Esther Edwards wrote.

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