As a father of two, I've always looked forward to Father's Day as a day to spend some quality time with my daughters.
When they were little, this meant enjoying a special breakfast prepared with love or receiving a personalized work of art, often a pencil drawing or watercolor print made at school. There was nothing better than knowing there were two little ones who looked up to me to protect and provide for them.
Today, my daughters have grown into incredibly intelligent and successful young women. I couldn't be more proud of the well rounded, productive and compassionate adults they've become. And I know that, of all the hats I've worn and titles I've held over the years, there is nothing more important than the role my wife and I played in raising our girls.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to learn the importance of being a good father from one of the best, my own dad. Not only did he teach me about the sacrifices dads make for their children, but also the sacrifices that leaders make for their country.
My dad was a member of the Greatest Generation, and he served 31 years in the U.S. Air Force. Second Lieutenant T.J. Cornyn flew 26 missions as a member of the Jack Rose Crew, in the 303rd bomber group –the Hell's Angels. He was shot down and spent four months in a German prisoner of war camp before General Patton and his Army came along and liberated him and his fellow P.O.W.'s.
Though my father, who is now deceased, was fortunate to return from the grips of war to live with his family in peace, many of his fellow warriors did not. My dad instilled in me a great respect for our servicemen and women and the sacrifices they've made to ensure this country is the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.
This year, the National Fatherhood Initiative, which was founded in 1994 to address the growing national problem of father absence, hosted its annual Military Fatherhood Awards to recognize devoted military fathers across the country.
From a pool of 600 nominees, San Antonio resident and Army Captain, Scott Kulla, was selected as one of three finalists for the 2011 Military Fatherhood Award. Kulla, a father of six, has served in Iraq and Korea.
During his tours abroad, Kulla made time to call or write his wife and children every day. Because of the time difference, he often woke up at odd hours to Skype with his family and be there to answer homework questions or assist with parenting decisions.
Now stateside, Kulla is currently a student in the U.S. Army Doctor of Science in Occupational Therapy program. Though his schedule is demanding, his commitment to his children has not wavered. When he has free time, he takes his children camping, giving his wife a break, and often takes his daughters on "daddy dates" for lunch or coffee.
He recently took off two days to drive his oldest daughter to college, move her in and fly back to report to class early the next morning. In a video nomination of their dad, the Kulla kids say they have "the coolest dad ever" who plays outside with them, makes homework fun, attends as many of their games as he can, and inspires them to set goals and take chances.
Countless studies have shown that an involved father, like Captain Kulla, plays a vital role in the health and well-being of a child. Children with involved fathers are more likely to succeed in school, have a healthy sense of self-confidence, take initiative and practice self-control.
Sadly, as it stands, one out of every three children—approximately 24 million children nationwide—are growing up without their fathers. The absence of a biological father takes its toll on children, resulting in a greater chance of them using drugs, engaging in criminal behavior, or developing health or emotional problems later in life.
This Father's Day is an important chance for all dads to not only renew our commitment to our own children, but also to make sure we are setting a good example for new or expecting fathers.
It is also a good time to consider becoming a mentor to children who do not have a father figure in their lives. Organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters and many others offer opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of young people.
Whether it's help on a book report, a familiar face in the crowd at the Little League game, or an extra set of hands moving belongings into the new dorm room, the small investments we make in the lives of young people today will result in stronger, healthier and happier generations to come.
Happy Father's Day, from one dad to another.
Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.