Staff Sgt. D.J. Perry keeps very busy with his duties as a full-time National Guard recruiter in Pittsburg.

Staff Sgt. D.J. Perry keeps very busy with his duties as a full-time National Guard recruiter in Pittsburg.

But he’s even more busy when he leaves work and goes home to wife Lindsey and a blended family of five children.

“You know, you can have a lot of jobs in this life, but being a parent is the biggest one,” Perry said.

He added that being the best husband and father he can be influences his performance as a recruiter.

“My biggest fear would be to have my children disillusioned in me, so that makes be better at every other job I do,” Perry said. “When people see how we treat our family and the family values we have in this office, I think that draws good quality people to enlist in the National Guard.”

The children range from daughter Lauryn, 14, who will be a Frontenac High School freshman in the fall, to twins Blaze and Mia, 7, stepson Kaden, 6, and Kylin Hope, 3.

“They keep us busy, that’s for sure,” Perry said.  

He said that routines help make the household run more smoothly.

“Routines are very important, especially with visually impaired children,” Perry said. “You build routines so the children know what’s going on.”

The twins are both blind.

“They were born at 28 weeks gestation and spent several months in the NICU  (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in Joplin,” Perry said. “They were home several weeks when my ex-wife and I noticed a white cloudy mass in Blaze’s eye when we were feeding him.”

Both babies were diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease that affects prematurely born babies. It is thought to be caused by disorganized growth of retinal blood vessels which may result in scarring and retinal detachment.

“Mia has had two eye surgeries,” Perry said. “Blaze has more scar tissue and has had almost 10 surgeries.”

However, the youngsters are thriving, and will be going into the second grade at Frank Layden Elementary School in the fall.

“They’re actually reading at a third grade level,” said Calvin Churchwell, a teacher of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialist with the Joplin Association for the Blind.  “They’re just blind, there’s nothing else wrong with them. They can do anything anybody else can do as long as we modify it for them.”

He has been working with the children since they were a year old. Churchwell is currently working with them on cane skills and they’re learning how to cross streets.

“I’ll be with them until they graduate from high school, so I get to see them grow up,” Churchwell said.

He is very pleased with their progress, and very impressed by their family.

“These children have an amazing dad and an amazing mom,” Churchwell said.

Tammy Warford, a vision para, is with Blaze and Mia at school, and one of her main duties is to convert printed materials into Braille for the twins.

Mia received a I rating at the Mid-America Music Festival, and Blaze won a gold medal in the Young Authors competition for his book “Blaze and the Air Pipe.”

“It’s a really scary story,” Blaze said. “I was washing my hands and I heard a bubble. I wasn’t scared the first time, but it happened again.”

“They were working on the plumbing at school and there was air in the line,” Perry explained. “Blaze wrote a whole detailed story about it.”

He and his wife are proud that all the children are doing well in school, including Lauryn, who was on the Frontenac Junior High all A honor roll.

“We don’t pressure them, but we do encourage them to do their best,” Perry said.

A typical school day in the Perry home starts around 6:30 or 6:45 a.m.

“We get the children up, Lindsey sets out their clothes and I make breakfast,” Perry said. “Blaze, Mia and Kaden go to school, and Lauryn usually walks them into school.”

The words “table time” will summon the youngsters to the dining table, where each child always sits in the same place.

The family is now enjoying summer.

“We’re a big outdoor family and go camping a lot,” Perry said. “Summer is the funnest time of year for us.”

He is a 1996 Pittsburg High School graduate and joined the National Guard in 1998. He worked for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department until getting the full-time post as recruiter in Pittsburg. His wife is from the Columbus-Scammon area.

It’s a blessing, Perry said, to be able to live and work in the area where they both grew up.

“We have a lot of support from family and some really close friends who come over daily and help a lot,” he said. “My brother Billy helps a lot and there’s a young man I enlisted in the National Guard, Aaron Sullivan, that I sometimes call my sixth child. He comes over and plays with the kids.”

Perry is set to receive several Father’s Day gifts, but believes his best presents are the children themselves.

“You can have the worst day in the world, then they smile and say they love you,” he said. “That makes it all go away.”