My life was shaped early on to treat each day as a gift. I have my Dad to thank for that. He came from humble circumstances, was the first in his family to go to college, served in the Navy, used his GI bill to further his education, and he was driven to make a better life for me and my four siblings. I benefited from his hard work and dedication and am so grateful for that.
I lost my dad when I was 12 years old when he was just 49. Before he died, in between heart attacks, my Dad told me: “Make Me Proud.” Through the valley of grieve and beyond, my young life was propelled on a path to do just that and to carry on his legacy.
My Dad taught us five kids that hard work, education, and a mindset of service to others created a solid foundation for any path in life. I took his words to heart.
After high school, my journey took me to the U.S. Air Force Academy where I paid back for my education in service to our country. When I got there, they told me that girls couldn’t be fighter pilots, so naturally, I was determined to do just that. I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time with the right grit and qualifications to be the first women in U.S. history to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat. It was the honor of my life to command an A-10 squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force base and lead them into combat in Afghanistan.
Then, I took the same tenacity to the United States Congress, where I served for 4 years in the House of Representatives before serving the great state of Arizona in the Senate. The privilege is not one I take lightly. For me, this is an extension of my military service—only now I deploy to Washington, D.C.
We are all deeply impacted by our fathers influence on our lives, whether they were nurturing and loving or unfortunately not. My Dad’s life and way too early death inspired me to work hard, do my best, and have a servant’s heart to make a difference for others with the opportunities I have been given. Losing my Dad forced me to learn at the age of 12 that every day is a gift because we truly don’t know if today will be our last. Father’s Day reminds me to reflect on the lessons my Dad taught me and to live each day to make my Dad proud.
Happy Father’s Day to all of Arizona’s Dads. I miss mine today more than ever.