My dad, Thomas Williford, is an Air Force officer with 25 years of service and is still on active duty, assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. His Air Force call sign is Tee. He joined the Air National Guard when he was 16 to pay for his college education.
My dad's life story is pretty remarkable, from growing up in the small town of Madison, Ark., to traveling internationally. Through the years, I have watched my dad become a successful military leader.
He holds a double master's degree. In his career as an Air Force healthcare administrator, he has held many jobs. He specializes in resource management and information management and technology, where he is board certified. I would describe my dad as hard working, determined and a motivator.
He is always inspiring me to do more and work hard to achieve my goals. His Air Force career has taken me around the world, it seems. I was born in Kusel, Germany, and lived in Spokane, Wash., Melbourne, Fla., Washington, D.C., and Boerne, Texas, just outside of San Antonio in the first eight years of my life.
As we settled into San Antonio, I became active in sports. Throughout my younger years, I participated in tennis and basketball but eventually fell in love with soccer when I was 12.
My dad was one of my first coaches and fell in love with soccer quickly as well. Even though he had long hours during the day, I could see the excitement that came across his face during the car ride to the field as he discussed the drills we would be doing that day.
He has been my biggest cheerleader on the field as well as off. We would watch hours of the World Cup on television and go to local college soccer matches. The best part of our time together was our conversations during the long rides in the car. We spent a lot of time in the car over a six-year period, which included a two-hour ride one way twice a week for soccer practice for four of those years.
Our conversations included everything about life, college, love for the game and service. His attitude to serve was always apparent when he was my coach. He was so positive and passionate as a coach, not only for me, but every member of the team. He wanted all to be at their best.
Recently, as I registered to vote, I reflected on his words about the personal cost of service and duty. While he was in service in Italy during the end of my high school years, he missed some big events in my life, but he has always remained there for me somehow. Before every club game, if I needed a reassuring voice or a confidence boost, my dad was only a call away.
Throughout my life, my dad has been a key component to my success and motivation. He continuously pours out his love and support for me.