Many University of Idaho students will spend this years’ Dads’ Weekend with their fathers, but Naval ROTC student Robert Brown will spend it counting down the days until he sees his sons again.
“Being a long-distance dad really pulls on the strings,” Brown said. “There’s the pull of being a full-time student and a Marine, and it takes away a lot of the time I would spend with my kids.”
Brown’s sons currently live in different cities while he finishes his degree in Moscow. Born and raised in Boise and an “Idahoan through and through,” Brown said UI was the closest college to his sons with a Naval ROTC program, and the university’s program in recreation made his decision even clearer.
He said he looks forward to graduating at the end of this semester, when his children will come to visit him again.
“I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from college,” Brown said. “My kids are what give me the motivation to finish. Being a father makes it easier to be inspired. It’s a foundation, a basis for my life.”
After dropping out of college the first time and going down a “bad path,” Brown said he wanted to join the Marines to make a positive change in his life. Throughout the past 11 years, Brown said he was in several combat deployments, serving in the infantry in Iraq and logistics in Afghanistan. He said he continuously pushed himself while serving in the Marines, and eventually decided to go back to school for his sons.
“I knew that I could do more, that I was worth more,” Brown said. “I wanted to be a good example and good role model for my kids.”
Brown will graduate with a bachelor’s of science in recreation and a minor in outdoor leadership. He said his choice of study comes back to the outdoor experiences he had with his parents as a child, enjoying the natural wonders of Idaho’s backyard.
This summer, Brown interned at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Boise, in which he assisted a recreational therapist in outdoor therapeutic activities with veterans. He said this experience inspired him to eventually work with nonprofits assisting veterans and wounded warriors through recreational therapy.
“If you knew me, you’d know that I love to have fun,” Brown said. “And this major is all about how to have fun and to do that professionally. It’s about increasing the quality of life.”
After graduation, Brown said he plans to continue his career in the Marines for another eight years and then retire, hoping to move closer to his sons. When he retires from the Navy, Brown said his children will be teenagers — an important time to have a father figure present. He said he can’t wait to treat his children to amazing outdoor experiences, remembering just how impactful those were in his own childhood.
“I’ll just pound out these next eight years,” Brown said. “I have this commitment to be the best dad possible, and I want to be there for them.”
Until then, Brown is counting down the days.
Taryn Hadfield can be contacted by email at email@example.com