Lessons from my Metaphoric Superman Dad

By Aubrey Murtha — “He never stopped wanting to save the world,” said Ron Reagan of his father, President Ronald Reagan.

Although most of us cannot claim to have fathers of the presidential variety, I think it is safe to say that many of us look at our dads in a similar way.  If we take a second to reflect on everything our dads do for us and the invaluable lessons they impart on their children, it seems appropriate to refer to them as metaphoric Supermen.


Okay.  Let me take a second to describe my dad to you.  He is a recently retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and former U.S. Marine (although he’d argue, “Once a Marine, always a Marine”).  The dude spent thirty years in the military, he is six foot four, and he can beat up men half his age.  Now you see why this Superman idea comes to mind.

Anyways, when you grow up under the parental guidance of a military father, your relationship with your dad may seem a little unconventional to civilian families.  For example, when I was in elementary school, my dad taught me how to read military time.  Along with that, he decoded several commonly used military acronyms for me.  This way, when he told me his ETA was 15:30, I’d know what he meant.  Along with the regular alphabet, he taught me some phonetics (A as in Alpha, B as in Bravo, C as in Charlie…).

When he quizzed me on my spelling words, he would make me stand at attention so as to ensure that I was focused.  On road trips, we pointed out Marine Corps bumper stickers or billboard advertisements to each other and shouted “OOO RAH!”  He missed lots of basketball games and dance recitals, but that did not mean much to me since the time we had together was far more important than his absences.

Along with these silly things, my dad has taught me some important lessons throughout the past nineteen years.  Here are just a few:

  1. Some things aren’t worth fighting over.  For example, although his sense of style is bordering on not-so-great, do not comment on the pea green PT gear or the camo pants.  Because, no matter what you say, he will wear them anyway…all the time…many days in a row.
  2. Temper your sass when you talk to my parents because, “The Murtha house is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship,” and Mom and Dad are the dictators.
  3. Don’t be wasteful.  Frugality and resourcefulness are highly underrated in today’s society.
  4. Never say “can’t” because “quitters are losers, and Murtha’s are not losers.”
  5. Don’t fight dirty.
  6. SA (military code for Situational Awareness) is always important, especially while operating a motor vehicle or a military aircraft.  Yep, you can imagine how fun it was to learn to drive with this guy.
  7. Always, always have a very mature respect for military servicemen and women.
  8. Treasure the quality time you get with those you love.  Don’t take your loved ones for granted.
  9. Materialism is a trap.  Don’t fall into it.
  10. Safety first.
  11. Sometimes a good story is very different from the true story.
  12. Don’t ever let any boy mistreat you.
  13. Respect your mother at all times.
  14. Be adaptable.  Embrace change.
  15. Even if you really struggle with something, you should apply yourself wholeheartedly.  You can get it done.  Sometimes, you can even get it done quite well.

If you are like me, you do not tell your dad enough how much he means to you.  You might criticize his vast array of irritating idiosyncrasies or simply roll your eyes when he does something that embarrasses you (yeah, there is a lot of eye rolling that happens in the Murtha house).

However, although it hurts to admit it, I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today without his guidance.  Maybe we kids need to take a tall shot of humility every now and then and recognize that maybe our parents really do have it all figured out.

Okay… maybe not all of it.

Semper Fi, Dad.  I love you.

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