I was raised in a military household. The daughter of a soldier, my story is a carbon copy of many who came before me and many more who will come long after. I was raised all over — different cities, different time zones, different countries. My address changed with nearly every passing year. Different street names, different phone numbers, different schools. New faces, new places, new memories. I had gone to nine different schools before I reached high school and had lived in just as many states. I’m what you might call a stereotypical military brat. I’m outgoing, I’m energetic, I’m adaptable. I love Tabasco sauce and mess hall food. I first learned of Nutella while living abroad and say Capri Sun with an emphasis on the “cap.” I’m completely bilingual and can count to ten in Farsi, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Italian. The moving around and the new friends and the rich experiences and the different cultures — it all amounted to an amazing childhood filled with beautiful memories. And that, undoubtedly, hands down, without question, is thanks to my mother.
It’s bizarre to claim that I was raised in a single parent home, given that my parents are not only still married, but very much in love — but I was. Christmases, birthdays, and Tuesday night soccer games, Girl Scout meetings, and science fair projects, my mother did them all alone. Four kids, two dogs, and a husband on the other side of the globe, and she somehow did them with a smile on her face.
Looking back now, I don’t really know how she did it. Or how my sister — who also married a military officer — does it right now. The nights spent alone, the days spent alone, the holidays spent alone, I don’t know how she didn’t crack. At times, my dad would leave without warning, having been called to some foreign land my tiny self was unable to pronounce. We’d go to sleep with our daddy home and we’d wake up with him gone yet again. Midnight calls were frequent. A red phone — off limits to our little hands — sat in the kitchen. My mother would go to sleep one night with a partner, someone to help her with dishes and homework and crying babies — and the next day she would wake up, reach over, and find that she was once again a single parent. Maybe she wouldn’t be reaching forever, but she’d be reaching for days, months, maybe even a year, maybe even longer.
My mother didn’t ask for this life of uncertainty and solitude. She didn’t ask for a life of sleepless nights and restless days. She didn’t ask for a life of juggling the schedule of a high schooler, a middle schooler, a 3rd grader, and a toddler — all on her own. She didn’t ask to play the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny or to wonder if this would finally be the Christmas that he’d be home for. She didn’t ask for my father to miss my birth or for him to deploy to Iraq in October of 2002 and return in August of 2004. She didn’t ask for yellow ribbons, countless deployments, or a marriage spent mostly alone. She didn’t ask for it — but she did it regardless.
My father sacrificed a lot for this country — but so did my mom. I think we too often forget that the sacrifices made my military spouses are just as great, if not greater, than the men and women in uniform. They’re the soldiers on the home front. The ones who stay up until 2 am helping with book reports and then wake up at 6 for carpool, go to work, come home, make dinner, and do it all over again.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized everything my mother did for me. And even still, I’ve never really properly thanked her. How do you thank someone who quite literally gave you everything? My father is my hero, but my mother is my my whole life. She gave me courage, she gave me hope, and she gave me strength. I am where I am because of my father, but I am who I am because of my mother. Thanks, mom.