Marrying his high school sweetheart, Sylvia, and looking at his future, Danny Hernandez did not plan on a military career. Four children and two military careers later, with a son carrying on the military tradition, Hernandez has a different perspective.
“The military gave us a lifestyle that ensured my children experienced people from different countries and backgrounds,” says Hernandez. “Those experiences helped develop a positive character.”
U.S Army Reserve, Captain Daniel Hernandez, Jr. (Retired). has four children, one of whom is currently active in the Air Force – SSG Daniel Hernandez, III. His wife, Sylvia, is also a veteran with the Army having a long career spanning 12 years that includes both the Army Reserve and Texas National Guard.
Daniel is a staff sergeant in the Air Force and has deployed to Korea and Afghanistan. Their other three children are also very successful. Their daughter is multi-lingual, using her ability to speak Japanese to find interesting opportunities while working in animation. The next son will graduate this December from Baylor University in Pre-Med. And their youngest son Thomas is in the top of his class and is a musician playing with the Edcouch-Elsa Mariachi as a harpist.
How did Danny and Sylvia raise such amazing people?
“I felt like I missed out while I was deployed,” says Hernandez. “When I would return, I spent a lot of time with my children, reading to them, visiting their schools and understanding their interests.”
According to Danny, he felt like he was playing catch up.
“I realize now that all that attention is what they needed from me. Sylvia wanted me to spend extra time with our kids, and because I did, it also helped our relationship mend from being deployed.”
Danny, like many veterans, struggles with symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
“I had friends who returned home and wanted to be alone. I understand why they felt that way, but I know that will not help. The answer is spending time with family and making up the time with your children.”
It was not always easy for Danny to focus on his children. He had a routine and was used to spending time alone. The pressures of civilian life are not easy to deal with and having to integrate into his family who had their own routine and rhythm was a challenge.
Danny served in the Army with the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell during which time he was deployed during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He then joined the Texas National Guard, where he was deployed three different times including a long mission in Kosovo with KFOR-7. CPT Hernandez then provided training for National Guard units being deployed, as an Instructor with the Army Reserves 75th Training Brigade, with a focus on deployments to Kosovo.
“When I returned from deployment, my wife and I had a hard road ahead of us,” says Hernandez. “By focusing on improving the foundation of my relationship with my children, we became stronger as a family, and it helped my marriage.”
From Marching to Teaching
Danny did not come from a military family, but rather his family members were in education. He recognizes that the military provided his family opportunities to live better lives, including the GI bill that allowed him and Sylvia to both enter the educational field.
“We enjoy working with children,” says Hernandez. “Today we are both in the educational system, helping young people get a solid start.”
Danny currently works with kindergarten students as a reading interventionist and Sylvia is a teacher for pre-K kids collaborating with the Head Start program. They both have principal certificates as well.
“The military gave us the opportunity to accomplish many of the things we wanted,” says Hernandez.
A Safe Place to Share
Danny recognizes how post-traumatic stress impacts his daily life and works through the symptoms in spite of the difficulty. He and Sylvia were looking for opportunities to focus on wellness when they came across Heroes on the Water at a Veteran’s Expo in Harlingen.
“When we first met Maria and the HOW team, we fell in love with the people and the idea,” says Hernandez. “I grew up fishing, so was interested in doing it again. More importantly, HOW gave me a safe place to interact with others who had been through what I had been through.”
Danny was happy to find a group of veterans where he could speak to people both in his generation and those recently returning from combat. Having that camaraderie makes a big difference for veterans who are seeking like-minded individuals with similar experiences.
“It’s a relaxed environment where we can share how much we want, when we want,” says Hernandez. “It helps knowing somebody is there and we have a safe place to share. HOW has been a good constant for me.”
Danny’s family attends the outings as well and he is pleased to see how interactive his youngest son is with the participants.
“I had him speak with my superiors and co-workers in the military, and now he is comfortable interacting with all sorts of people,” says Hernandez. “That is one of the many positives of our military life.”
Danny has first-hand experience on the difficulties of re-acquainting with your family post-deployment. He also realizes the important of spending time with his children upon his return.
“I knew that I needed to concentrate on being a dad,” says Hernandez. “It’s what Sylvia wanted, and I knew I needed to live up to her trust of me as a father. I believe spending extra time with my children made a positive difference in their lives.”
Heroes on the Water is one of the few veteran’s service organizations that include family members in our programs. We believe in the power of family and nature as a healing mechanism. This Father’s Day, thank our veterans and support our heroes with your donation, so we can all continue to make a positive impact on the lives of veterans, first-responders and their families.