Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW) Christopher Cady received the 2011 Military Fatherhood Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative for his untiring devotion to his son, Joshua, now 11. (Family photo)
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A single Navy dad raising a son born with severe birth defects got an early Father's Day gift this year, beating out about 600 nominees to receive the 2011 Military Fatherhood Award.
Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW) Christopher Cady, stationed at Washington's Naval Base Kitsap, Wash., received the honor from the National Fatherhood Initiative during a June 16 ceremony near the base. He also earned a $1,000 check made out to his son, Joshua, to pay for the high medical costs associated with the 11-year-old's care.
Cady said he sees the award as an opportunity to educate others about the virus his son has and reach out to other families whose children have the same issue. Joshua was born with cytomegalovirus, which left him with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He is also deaf and blind, and requires a tracheotomy and a feeding tube.
"I do [everything I do] to help other people," Cady said in a phone interview after the ceremony. "I don't do it to be a hero. I don't do it to win awards."
Since 2008, Cady has retained sole custody of his son, who requires constant care. Tricare covers 16 hours of care every day, and Cady said his command has been generous in letting him take time off for medical appointments. He was also able to use a humanitarian extension to secure back-to-back shore leaves, meaning he could stay in Washington and care for Joshua.
But Cady is an E-6 with 19 years in, with high-year tenure for first classes set at 20 years his grade set at 20. Getting promoted would require another deployment, which Cady says won't work given his son's disabilities, so he plans on retiring.
Losing his active-duty benefits will mean more than $275,000 in additional medical bills that Cady would have to pay each year if he stayed in Washington. He and his girlfriend researched their options and found that the Medicare requirements in several states would ease their financial burden, including Cady's native Colorado.
"Thankfully, it looks like everything will fall into place and there won't be a gap in coverage," he said. "… But there are thousands of military families that aren't so lucky."
Cady received another honor earlier this month, when he shared his story at the White House as part of a roundtable on fatherhood.
The White House kicked off a yearlong campaign called Strong Fathers, Strong Families earlier this month. Several government agencies also released a series of public service ads June 14, this year focusing in part on military dads, as well as Hispanic fathers, for the Responsible Fatherhood campaign, which are available at fatherhood.gov.
Cady said he hopes that talking at the White House has helped raise awareness for the virus that has impacted him so much.
"To me that is huge, because now the White House knows what the problems are," Cady said. "You can't solve the problems if you don't know they exist."