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When Army 1st Lt. William Edwards found out he had received the 2012 Military Fatherhood Award, his youngest child, 6-year-old Luke, summed it up: "So you're the best dad in the country? That's awesome!"
The award was presented by the National Fatherhood Initiative, which winnowed 450 candidates down to three, then asked the public to make the final decision by voting on its Facebook page. In addition to the award, which was presented to Edwards at the White House on June 13, Edwards received a free five-night vacation for his family at a retreat in northeast Maryland.
Edwards and several other fathers had a barbecue lunch with President Obama. "He asked me what I do with my family, and he was telling me how he balances his time to spend time with his daughters," Edwards said.
"That was the highlight. It was surreal. How many people can say they went out and had barbecue with the president?" Edwards said, en route with his wife and four children from Washington, D.C. back to their home in South Carolina. He's stationed at Fort Jackson, where he works as an operations officer.
Edwards was recently commissioned from the enlisted ranks. Previously, he was a member of the 3rd Infantry Division Band, and was deployed for 14 months to Iraq in 2007-2008, when he sent home 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.
Asked what message he would like to convey to other military dads as Father's Day approaches, Edwards said: "Make every day count. It's easy to come home and want to veg out. But eke out at least an hour to spend time with the kids."
He designates a day of the week to spend time with each of his kids. That might mean going for a walk or doing something involving music. He'll jam with 12-year-old David on the keyboard, and with Jacob, 11, is a bass guitarist. Daughter Elena, 8, is the drummer, and 6-year-old Luke does a choreographed Ninja routine along with the music.
"Jacob loves fishing. I don't like fishing. But I take him anyway because he likes it," Edwards said.
"I'm really proud my dad got the award," David said. "It's pretty amazing he's the Number One dad out of the country. He likes to spend time with us. He doesn't put his work first."
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