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Time for his family

Growing up, David Brickey remembers his father doing pushups and sit-ups and leaving the house before dawn to go to work, coming home and eating a late dinner, mowing the lawn and going to bed.

But no matter how hard he worked, Brickey’s father always found the time take him camping, put up a basketball hoop and fit in a trip to the lake.

“He was an example of how to balance work and family,” Brickey said. “His work ethic went unmatched, but he still spent quality time with us.”

Now a father of three, Brickey leaves early for work as a Navy helicopter pilot, gets home around sundown and manages to find time for soccer, basketball, cheerleading and teaching his children how to ride their bikes.

“Being in the Navy is more about quality time than quantity time with your family,” Brickey said. “It’s full of long days and deployments, but when the kids run up and give me a big hug — no matter how bad or stressful the day has been — it melts away.”

Recognized for balancing his duties as a father and fighter, and for setting an example for his children and others, Brickey was recently awarded the Y2K Academy’s Y2K10 Dad of the Year.

“He is the epitome of a good role model in our neighborhood,” said Charles Gates, NAACP Suffolk chapter president and Brickey’s neighbor. “He looks the part and acts the part. He speaks politely and walks with his head up and you see him out playing with kids. Being a good role model is integral to being a good father. Even if your children can’t talk, they’re still looking up to you and will emulate what you do.”

The award was one of six different awards given during “Responsible Fatherhood Appreciation Week,” June 20-26 by the Academy. The week was recognized this year by a city-wide proclamation by Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson.

But Brickey, whose last deployment was to southeast Asia, said he wouldn’t be half the father he’s been able to be without his wife, Paula.

“I have a good Navy wife,” Brickey said. “She helps me translate work and family and bridge that gap if I start to forget where I’m at. If I have somewhere important going on, she’ll get up and make me breakfast or my lunch. It makes it easier to concentrate on what I have to do.”

It was her idea to tape Brickey reading bedtime stories to play for their daughter Sadie when he had to leave for a six-month deployment just 18 days after Sadie was born.

“I missed that eating, sleeping, pooping stage,” Brickey said. “But when I came back, I happily jumped into that elbow deep. I was so thankful to have a wife who did those little things though, so that when I came back my daughter wasn’t scared of me.”

About five years after Sadie was born, the Brickeys adopted a daughter, Ella Jean, and a year later son Caleb was adopted.

Now that they’re getting older, he’s been teaching them how to ride their bikes, and suspects that Caleb will be ready to take his training wheels off soon.

“Even though kids might seem materialistic these days, they don’t need things as much as they need time,” Brickey said. “Instead of worrying about all those things, spend time with them. If you’re in the military, make sure that time counts. All the leaders I’ve been with have always told me that family should come over the military. Depending on your job and situations, it’s almost impossible to maintain a decent balance. In that case, they support a sailor’s transition to civilian life, but there often comes a time when it’s time to choose.”

After 23 years in the Navy and having his family grow older and become more active, Brickey has decided it is his time and will retire from the Navy at the end of the year.

“It’s not a good market to go into right now, but it’s my time,” Brickey said. “It’s scary to transition to something outside, but I’ve hit my ceiling.”

While his occupation may change, Brickey’s primary job as a father is one he will always maintain, he said.