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NEWS | June 12, 2013

A father to all: An MP's perspective on fatherhood

By Tech. Sgt. April Wickes 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A young boy runs around the house dressed in his father's military uniform. The fatigues don't fit and he sometimes gets in trouble for wearing them, but the boy doesn't mind; he has too much fun pretending he's a Soldier.

That young Soldier is now grown, and is watching history repeat itself.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Ducote, 221st Military Police Detachment patrol platoon sergeant, grew up with a father who served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam; a father who instilled in him the concept of military discipline. After joining the Army, Ducote continued to learn more military values, not only passing them on to his own children, but also to his Soldiers.

Ducote has carried on the tradition of being a military father, having four children of his own. He said he is often reminded of fond memories of his childhood as he watches his youngest son, Trystan, playing Soldier with his brother Cassieus, just as he did when he was a child.

Ducote has taken the values he learned from his father and from the Army and applied them to his role as military father, seeing the Army as an extension of his family. Ducote said he views his troops as his children and his two squad leaders as younger brothers.

"You're just as attached to your family away from home as the family you have at home. My Soldiers are also my children," he said. "Army values are not just for Soldiers -- they are life values. That's what I try to teach my children. One of the best things about being a father is passing on [those] values."

Ducote said that he enjoys his military career, but being a military dad is not always easy, citing scheduling as a continuing challenge in balancing his mission and time with his family.
"The Army didn't teach me to be a father -- there are no manuals," he said. "I wish I had more time to spend with my children, but you learn by trial and error. You see what works and what doesn't."

While family moments are sometimes fleeting, Ducote said he's proud of his children and their accomplishments.

"I'm proud to be a father," he said. "I was proud when they were born, and I am proud when they excel in school and pass to the next grade. I am even proud when my daughters come to me for 'girl advice,' but I'm not the best person to give it!"

Ducote went on to say that while he serves as a role model for his children and Soldiers, he also learns from them, and recognizing that is an important aspect of being a father.

"I have a college education, but when my children come home and need help with their homework, I learn new ways of doing school work," he said. "They are inadvertently teaching me while I'm teaching them. It's the same at work; while I am confident and may look like I always know what I'm doing, my Soldiers indirectly teach me things I may not have known."

Ducote's "children" are not the only people he learns from. He said his wife, Angela, is also a big influence in his life.

"My wife is the backbone of the household," Ducote said. "She makes my job easier, keeps me in line and teaches me to be a calmer person."

Out of all the values and lessons he learned by growing up in the military, Ducote wanted his children and Soldiers to know that life will not give them anything they can't handle.
"Make decisions and stick with them, don't back down, stand up for what you believe is right and don't quit," he said. "Everything will turn out well in the end, so don't quit."

That determination stems from Ducote's motivation to serve, which is deeply rooted in tradition. In addition to his father's service, his grandfather served in U.S. Navy during World II and his brother is currently serving in the U.S. Army.

"It's a family tradition to be in the military, to fight for what's right," he said. "I'm led by love of country."

Ducote also had some important advice to give to other military fathers.

"Take what free time you have and spend it with your family, and when it comes to children, you should pay attention to what they have to say," he said. "They teach you where your shortcomings are. In the long run your children are going to be like you."

Time is a precious thing to Ducote and he spends what off-duty time he has with his children, often watching them running around pretending to be Soldiers as he did. Watching history repeat itself is something he takes pride in, hoping the values he instills can be seen not only in his own children, but in his Soldiers as well.