Deployment means different things to different Marines, but for one lance corporal, it meant leaving his pregnant wife, to help support Marines in a country thousands of miles away.
He knew he would miss the birth of his first child and he knew the challenge before him, to be a loving father and a caring husband, from the other side of the world.
Lance Cpl. Juston Dickerson, supply administrator, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward), deployed to Afghanistan worried about leaving his pregnant wife, Adriana, but said he prepared her as best he could.
“It was hard and very stressful at times,” said Dickerson, a native of Stockton, Calif. “I was really worried about the delivery without me, not seeing my daughter while I was here, and how she would be able to cope without me being there.”
He said his wife was not happy about him leaving, but as time went on she became more understanding.
On March 10, less than three months into his deployment, Dickerson became a dad. His daughter, Itzel, named after Adriana’s sister, weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces, at birth.
“Not being in the delivery room for my own daughter’s birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever (experienced),” said Dickerson.
Dickerson couldn’t be there for her birth, but is focused on his new family.
Corporal Francis Collado, warehouse clerk with Headquarters Bn., said that Dickerson has a big heart when it comes to his family.
“He’ll move heaven and earth to get to where he wants to go, and that shows a lot about him as a dad,” added Collado.
Dickerson buys supplies, including diapers, food, clothes and teddy bears, online to be delivered to his home, so his wife saves time and can focus on other things.
He also video chats with his family everyday and emails his wife every chance he gets. Dickerson said using online video chatting is the best way for him to be a father when deployed. He talks to his daughter, telling her he loves her and how his day has gone.
“It’s so she can recognize my voice, so when I do come home she knows who I am,” said Dickerson.
Dickerson makes every effort to be there for his daughter, while deployed. “Even though she doesn’t comprehend it now, I want her to know that her daddy loves her and misses her very much,” said Dickerson.
Dickerson’s strong sense of responsibility stems from his relationship with his parents and his grandfather.
“They were always busy, always working, always doing something out of the house.” said Dickerson.
He added that a father should be a mentor, friend, advocate and caretaker. Dickerson wants to be a positive role model for his daughter, and to support her in ways his parents weren’t able to. He said he found a role model in his Grandfather, Fred.
“(Fred) helped me learn, he taught me things that my father couldn’t teach me because (my father) wasn’t always there,” said Dickerson.
Dickerson tries to be there as much as possible for his daughter, taking full of advantage of the different services around him. Recently he participated in the United Through Reading program at the United Service Organization, a program records parents reading books and then sends the video to their children.
“I read ‘Cat in the Hat’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ because those were my favorite stories as a kid,” said Dickerson, with a smile. “I thought I’d pass that down to my daughter.”
Dickerson’s work area is covered with photos of his wife and daughter. He said it helps motivate him everyday and helps him begin his work with a smile.
He sits at his desk and has more photos saved on his computer. He shows them off to the Marines who come into supply.
“Dickerson is a really big family man,” said Collado. “He actually sends me photos of his daughter everyday.”
Collado added that Dickerson talks about his daughter and wife on a daily basis.
“Dickerson’s most prized possession is his daughter,” said Collado. “He’s always talking about her and things he wants to do with her. There’s no greater love than the love of a parent, and he’s showing that.”
Dickerson is now three months into the deployment and anticipates returning to his family. He plans on taking his daughter to the zoo and his wife out to dinner dates.
“I’ll keep working hard, and wait for the day when I come home and (am) reunited (with my family),” said Dickerson.
Dickerson continues being the best father he knows how, from a country thousand of miles away. Tonight, when other Marines are asleep, Dickerson will be online with his wife and newborn daughter. Tomorrow when Marines come to supply, they will find a wall full of baby photos and a proud father, ready to show off his daughter.
Written by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo, 1st Marine Division
On location at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan