Father of the Year Honorees 2024 – Terry D. Hemmitt 

Weathering the Storms

By Loni Nannini

Chief Master Sgt. Terry Hemmitt is on a mission to ensure the airmen he leads and develops have the training, equipment and opportunities to face challenges head-on. 

“We can’t prepare the path, but we want to prepare the person,” said Terry, Senior Enlisted Leader of the 755th Operations Support Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The military recipient of the Father’s Day Council Tucson Father of the Year award puts that same philosophy into practice with his family, for his wife, Jessica, and as a parents to Jiya, 6, Terry Jr., 3, and goddaughter, Tamia, 18.

“For me, success boils down to the ability to weather the inevitable storms that life brings your way,” Terry said. “It comes down to having the opportunities to be the best version of you and having what you need to be prepared to tackle obstacles.”

It’s a tried-and-true conviction for Terry, who has faced obstacles of his own. He never knew his father, and he was raised by his disabled grandmother in inner Kansas City.

“We didn’t have a lot of income, but my grandmother instilled a serious work ethic in me,” he said. “Watching her make sacrifices and understanding what that meant has been a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me.” 

Determined to attend college, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and began a career that has spanned 18 years. He credits the military with providing resources to earn a college degree and to acquire transferable skills.

“That was why I signed up, but I re-enlisted because I realized there were many benefits beyond the hard technical skills the Air Force teaches,” Terry said. “It exposes you to people from different backgrounds, helps you develop character, and helps you grow to your potential and become the person you want to be.”

For the past decade, he has realized his potential alongside his wife, Jessica. Together, the couple has risen to life’s challenges, including Type 1 diabetes.

Jessica, 33, was diagnosed as a teenager. With virtually no family history, the news came as a shock. 

“For many years I was in denial about my diabetes,” Jessica said. “There were many times I wouldn’t take my insulin and by the grace of God, I never got really sick.”

The cost of insulin was also a factor, and the aspiring chef rationed her medication for many years. That changed when Jessica and Terry decided to have children.

“It was hard to control my sugar levels during my pregnancy. I had hyperemesis with both pregnancies, so I couldn’t eat and couldn’t take insulin. I was hospitalized many times, and my body was breaking down,” Jessica said. 

Now a pastry baker at Monsoon Chocolate, Jessica wears an insulin pump − a small, computerized device that delivers a steady flow of insulin through a thin tube under her skin that makes it easier to control blood sugar levels. She also wears a glucose monitor. 

Jessica credits her husband with being by her side emotionally and physically as she has incorporated motherhood into her health journey.

“The thing that I find most difficult is trying to explain to the kids what it means when I have low blood sugar,” she said. “I tell them, ‘Mommy needs a juice box and has to sit down.’ Jiya is starting to grasp it. I explain the importance of dialing 911 if I can’t wake up and telling the paramedics that I have diabetes.”

The couple hopes that shining a light on Jessica and the daily realities of Type 1 diabetes will facilitate research supported by the Father’s Day Council Tucson Endowed Chair at Steele Children’s Research Center.

Jessica is optimistic about advances in disease management − including insulin pumps that communicate with glucometers through a closed loop system to administer insulin as needed. She also is a proponent of the accessibility to care and education afforded by Steele Center.

“Nothing would make me happier than just making Type 1 diabetes a little easier for children to deal with,” she said. “I am all for a cure, but I also support any tiny steps along the way.”

“I saw what it was like for Jessica to navigate becoming a mom while living with Type 1 diabetes and also being a military wife and a working mom,” Terry said. “There are so many layers and complexities, and Jessica has educated me so much about how to support people living with this disease.”

Pictured above from left – Jessica, Jiya, Terry & Terry Jr.

28th Annual Father of the Year Awards Gala

Saturday, June 8, 2024 

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort


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