By Gabrielle Fimbres
When Joshua Palochak was 16, he watched in horror as the Twin Towers tumbled to the ground on Sept. 11, 2001.
It was then that he dedicated himself to protecting our nation.
“At that time my life didn’t have a lot of vector. I remember watching the news and I realized I had never set a standard for myself to achieve anything.”
The next day Palochak doubled his workload at school so he could graduate as a junior. On Sept. 11, 2002 – exactly a year after the tragic events – Palochak became an airman.
It is with that dedication and passion that Palochak has approached all that is important in his life – family, service and education.
Palochak, a captain and senior mission crew commander with the 41st Electronic Combat Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, is the 2014 Father’s Day Council Tucson Military Father of the Year.
He was nominated by his supervisor, Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrix.
“I nominated Capt. Palochak for two key traits – selfless dedication that yields service above and beyond the amazing standard of excellence we find common in our Air Force, and genuine humility over his accomplishments. Josh would serve his country and his family the same way whether we recognized him or not, and that is endearing, encouraging and inspiring.”
Palochak, who was raised by a single mom who is retired Air Force, called the award humbling.
“As a father I question whether I am doing this right,” Palochak said. “It’s constantly burdening me, so this award was very humbling. Finding a way to provide the best foundation for my children is always on my mind and motivates me to make sure they don’t have to go without the foundational support I missed out on without having a father.”
Palochak and his wife, Ashley, are parents to sons Gavin, 3 and Logan, 2. Also in their hearts are two girls who they fostered for more than a year before the sisters recently were placed in their forever home with another family.
Before welcoming the girls, the Palochaks discussed fostering but decided it was not the right time. “It was a Saturday and I had just returned from Afghanistan and my wife and I had a conversation and decided that it wasn’t the right option for us because our two boys are so young.”
The next day at church, the entire service was about foster care.
“I took that as a sign,” Palochak said.
The couple made the call about becoming foster parents the following day.
“It was quite honestly one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “These girls showed up on our doorstep with literally a trash bag full of clothes. That was all they had to their name.”
They had fallen far behind in school. When Palochak was deployed, he would help the girls with homework over Skype. “They would hold up their homework and I would check it on the video screen.”
By the time the girls moved to their permanent home, they were near the top of their class.
Palochak, who said the family will continue fostering, said balancing fatherhood and other commitments is not simple.
“My wife is my hero,” he said. “She’s the one that keeps it all together.”
Ashley cared for their sons during his first deployment and for all four children during his second.
Palochak also makes his own education a priority. He is completing a doctorate from the University of Phoenix.
How does he do it all?
“Very little sleep. It’s all about prioritizing your time. And when I am at home, it’s all about family. You are juggling so many balls you have to know when to drop a few and when to pick them up,” he said.
One ball that does not get dropped is the family’s passion for Christmas lights. It started when Palochak bought a device that synchronizes lights with music.
“I found the most elaborate hobby there is. We are now up to 50,000 to 60,000 lights.”
Neighbors bring by donations for Toys for Tots, and last year he held a toy drive at Park Place Mall, collecting 4,400 toys.
Palochak said he and his wife are leaving their imprint on their children.
“We are looking to create a lasting legacy built on selfless service to others. Everything God has blessed us with, we need to bless others.”