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Shelton Honored as Father of the Year

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 1998 – Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was among seven "National Fathers of the Year" honored May 13 at a 1998 awards luncheon in New York.

The awards are given by the National Father's Day Committee, an entity of the Father's Day/Mother's Day Council.

"I would like to accept this award on behalf of all of the fathers wearing a military uniform and serving America," Shelton said. "In our military services today, there are 850,000 families parenting over 1.3 million children."

Some military fathers are fortunate enough to be with their families, he noted, but "many others are deployed far away from home, in dozens of countries around the world, some of which you've heard of, and others that would send you scurrying for an atlas."

"Being a good parent is as demanding and as challenging as anything I ever faced in the jungles of Vietnam or deserts of Iraq," Shelton said, "because to do battle with an enemy, we soldiers spend countless hours training, planning and honing our combat skills so when the moment of engagement arrives, there is a 99.9 percent certainty that we will prevail."

But when "doing battle" with a 2-year-old or a teen-ager, no amount of preparation is sufficient, he said. "You've only got a 50 percent chance that what you do in any situation will be right.

"I began adulthood the person that I was because of my father," he said. "But I became the man that I am because God gave me my beautiful wife, Carolyn, and the opportunity to be a father. It is exactly as one 19th century writer noted: 'Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.'"

Shelton is the first military honoree since Army Gen. Colin Powell, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received the award in 1992. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Operation Desert Storm commander, received the award in 1991. And according to Joe Rivers of the National Father's Day Committee, the award's first recipient was Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1942.

Other recipients have included President Ronald Reagan, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, tennis pro John McEnroe, actor Gregory Hines, race car driver Mario Andretti and baseball player Larry Doby.

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