STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It is Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. Heading into Father's Day weekend, a Marine faces tough questions from his 11-year-old. First Lieutenant Ernesto Rodriguez is a father of two. He deployed to Iraq in 2005, when he was a new dad. When he returned, he struggled to keep his life together but never spoke about those times with his son, Sebastian, until this interview.
SEBASTIAN: What was it like to go to war in Iraq?
ERNESTO RODRIGUEZ: I would look forward to be sent over there because that's the Marine in me. But then I could be killed. There is that possibility of me not seeing you guys, ever.
SEBASTIAN: Did you think about us while you were over there?
RODRIGUEZ: Every day. When I left, you were just starting to crawl. And then when I came back, you were already walking. And you didn't know me. You were completely terrified. And it was the most difficult part of coming back.
SEBASTIAN: Has war changed you?
RODRIGUEZ: That's another very difficult question. I was hoping to talk about the things with you when you grow up. But yes, war does change you. There was an Iraqi kid about your age. And he was dead. And it could have been you. That kind of thing changes you as a person.
SEBASTIAN: Why did you have to move into the homeless shelter?
RODRIGUEZ: When I came back, your mom and I, we went through a divorce. And I didn't have anywhere to live anymore. How did that make you guys feel?
SEBASTIAN: I was a little scared for you. Sometimes, I wouldn't know where you were. And I was scared before I went to bed.
RODRIGUEZ: It's OK. It's all right.
SEBASTIAN: It wasn't good. But now in the apartment, you have, when we, like, go to see you, I feel safer. And I feel like you are safe. And I feel like you're a dad 'cause...
RODRIGUEZ: So, what does that mean?
RODRIGUEZ: What does to be a dad mean? This is very interesting.
SEBASTIAN: In school, there's like some thing on, like, what makes a dad.
RODRIGUEZ: Like a picture on the wall, like a something like...
SEBASTIAN: No, not picture. It's a writing.
SEBASTIAN: And it says, God took the calmness of a mountain, the warmness of a sun and tons of other stuff and put it into one together and called it a dad. And you're just, like, everything that I would possibly need.
RODRIGUEZ: Just know that I love you and that everything that I have done is because of you, to see you every day, to answer your questions about life, just like we're doing right now. That is, to me, the most important thing.
INSKEEP: Ernesto Rodriguez and his son, Sebastian, at StoryCorps in New York. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.