Master Sgt. Rick Marston receives the 2010 Military Fatherhood Award from Ginny Vason of Lockheed Martin and Roland Warren of the National Fatherhood Initiative. (Chris Maddaloni / Staff)
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Master Sgt. Rick Marston has gone to great lengths to make sure he's never out of touch with his kids.
The 36-year-old father of three used to record himself reading bedtime stories so his three sons, the oldest now 10, and twin 6-year-olds, wouldn't miss a night, even when he was deployed.
Technology has improved to make his efforts easier, but that doesn't mean he's coasting.
On June 8, Marston received the military fatherhood award from the National Fatherhood Initiative for his dedication to his own family and the young airmen he mentors.
"We're proud of him. We're proud of all our men in uniform who are there not just for their service but for their families, too," Maj. Gen. Steven J. Lepper told Air Force Times after the awards ceremony. "It tells [them] it can be done. You can balance work and family."
Marston, a load master based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., stays connected with his family through Skype, which allows free video and voice calls over the Internet. That capability was a "huge morale boost," Marston said.
Marston has also become a mentor to other airmen, many of them young fathers. While flying cargo across the Atlantic Ocean, he said he talks with them about their finances and not making decisions that will set them back. For example, he said, he encourages them to buy the cheaper car, instead of the expensive SUV.
And after his 19-year-old stepbrother lost both his parents, Marston took him in to his own house.
He "has had a difficult road," Marston said. "He needed someone to give him nudges."
During the award presentation, an emotional Marston told his stepbrother he was proud of him, bringing tears to the eyes of many in the room.
His message to other parents: "Spend as much time with [your kids] when they're young and form that bond," he said. "Things change. … It's just being there. Be there as much as you can when you're home."
Being a military father is a "unique fraternity," Marston said after being presented a $5,000 check from Lockheed Martin, a sponsor of the award.