By Fernanda Schroeder
When we talk about service members, the first image that might pop into your head is, justifiably, someone in uniform. You may think of them as a service member first, and a person second – after all, so much of their daily lives are defined by the incredible work and sacrifices that they make in service to this country. Pilot, infantryman, combat medic, ordnance officer – there are many roles that a service member can play.
But perhaps the most important role is this one: Dad.
Meet Jerimee Williams, a petty officer 1st class in the U.S. Navy and a father who has faced the unique challenges of being both a service member and a dedicated dad.
Jerimee’s story serves as a demonstration to the strength, love and commitment that military fathers embody while juggling their responsibilities. His journey has been remarkable, and so is the bond he shares with his two teenage boys, Jonathan and Jacob.
A Life Committed to the Navy and Family, in Equal Measure
Jerimee understands firsthand the hardships of being a military father. Since his deployment out to sea when his youngest son Jonathan was just five months old, and in the years that have followed, Jerimee, his wife and his children have learned to remain connected despite the distance and time apart. Although he could not always be by his family’s side, when he has been home, he could always be found reading the boys bedtime stories. Distance and time apart can be tough, but Jerimee’s love for his children kept him going.
To tackle the challenges of being a military father, Jerimee drew strength from his own experiences growing up. Jerimee was raised by his grandparents without a strong father figure in his life, and so he was determined to make up for that lost time with his sons. Balancing military life with parenting was no easy task, but Jerimee quickly became a hands-on father, actively involved in all aspects of his boys’ lives. Bedtime routines, school preparations, homework sessions — you name it, Jerimee did it happily.
When their family received new orders and moved from Italy to Japan, Jerimee embraced the adventure while still managing his military duties. Life in the Navy requires sacrifices, and often leaves service members with limited flexibility, but Jerimee refused to let his service get in the way of being there for his children.
Despite his demanding schedule, he made sure to attend school events, medical appointments and other important occasions alongside his wife. He decided to become a coach for the various sports teams their sons competed in, and he even became a den leader in their Boy Scouts’ troops. And even in the midst of all of this, Jerimee was also serving as a USO Volunteer in Japan; in fact, he became such a crucial member of the USO team in Yokosuka, that he was recognized as the USO Yokosuka Volunteer of the Year in 2022.
But through hit all, creating lasting memories and connecting with his sons has been a top priority for Jerimee, and he has managed his military duties and his volunteerism with the USO while still dedicating himself to his sons’ interests and happiness.
Ultimately he has proven that family comes first, no matter what.
Embracing Challenges of Autism and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Just when he thought he had a handle on the parenting-and-military-life-balance, Jerimee was faced with new challenges. His son Jonathan was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 13, just as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and “distance learning” for young students became the new normal. Nevertheless, Jerimee stepped up to the plate and provided the love and support his son needed, and in some ways, the pandemic made this possible. Although the circumstances of quarantines and distance learning were challenging, the pandemic also allowed for flexibility of schedules, and Jerimee was able to spend more quality time with both of his boys. It was a challenging time, but Jerimee made the most of it, helping his son Jonathan navigate the ups and downs of life with autism.
All this dedicated time with his children has clearly made an impact. Jerimee’s sons have strong relationships with their father, and many fond memories of their childhood so far, knowing that they can always turn to him for support.
“My first-ever roller coaster ride [was] Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris, and I was too scared to go on it,” Jonathan said. “But ‘el dadz’ convinced me, and I was scared. We had a lot of fun together, even when I thought I was going to throw up, and dad helped me. He is always there for me.”
Two days later during the same family trip, Jonathan was able to overcome his fear of heights to go up to the top floor of the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the beautiful view of Paris, in part due to his conquered fear and trust from his experience with his father on the roller coaster.
Jerimee and his family cherish their shared moments, quality time and creating memories together. Whether playing family games passed down from Jerimee’s grandmother or exploring the world together wherever the Navy sends them next, Jerimee truly enjoys every opportunity to connect with his sons. From thrilling roller coaster rides to arcade games, these shared experiences strengthen their special bond.
Our nation’s service members must sacrifice so much while in uniform – and perhaps one of the biggest of these sacrifices includes time spent away from loved ones. It can be difficult to balance the demands of military life with that of family life, but service members like Jerimee show that there is far more to them than just a uniform. They are service members, yes, but they are also members of families who care about them and every day, want them to come home safely. And at the end of the day, perhaps the best title of all is simply “dad.”
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