Archive » May 10, 2012
Military moms – the toughest of the tough
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
There isn’t a harder job for a wife or mother than to have their spouse be a dedicated member of our nation’s military – just ask their kids.
Travis Porter was still in utero when his dad was called to Desert Storm, leaving his mom alone to assume all of his father’s responsibilities in their home, as well as having to care for two toddlers.
One of the things that is especially hard for military moms, says Travis, is the uncertainty of the job –sometimes their spouses have to leave on a moment’s notice. And where they leave is, all too often, not the safest place in the world – adding fear to the extra work and loneliness.
Describing his mom as an extremely hard working person with a resilience that serves her well, Travis says “Nothing can ever repay you for what you did, Mom, but the least I can do is say ‘Thank you.’ I love you very much.” His is a sentiment the other military children in the Valley echo – not all of whom could be reached for comment.
As the stories of the children overlap and intermingle, what becomes clear is that these moms are a unique breed. While each story may differ, the challenges they face and the poise with which they rise to the task paints a universal truth: Military moms deserve special recognition. So says Brandy Adams, whose mom isn’t local.
Brandy’s mom currently resides in Montana; her dad, a major in the Air Force, is in Iraq for his second tour of duty. Brandy says military moms give up the chance to have someone at the ready to talk to when issues come up. (And her mom is now without a good golf partner, too.)
“You can’t always get a hold of him right away,” she says of her father. It is a source of both worry and sadness. When you need to talk, it’s hard not having your soulmate there to talk to. But, Brandy says, her mom is a lot of fun to be around even in hard times.
Robert and Sage Williams, both students at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, have no shortage of pride for their mom (or dad) – even though the latter is stateside, acting as advisor to the General at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc.
With eight children in the family, “it’s a lot more stress on her,” says Sage when dad is gone. “Mom is the one responsible for keeping the family together and making sure we all stay in touch.” When at war, Dad emails the family every day, and Williams’ mother sits the kids down at breakfast to read the missives out loud.
What makes the lifestyle good for military kids is often what makes it the hardest on the moms. “The military has been really awesome for us because we’ve gotten to live in so many different places and foreign countries and experience so many cultures,” says Sage.
Both when they lived in Greece and Germany, the Williams went to local schools with local children. It was their mom who helped them participate in all of the activities locals did – immersing them in the community even though she didn’t enjoy the same opportunity to make friends her children did at school.
Pulling her siblings aside to get a consensus, Sage reports that the “one thing that we would like to thank our mom for is always working so hard to make each house we lived in a home.”
While the Williams kids describe their military upbringing as “awesome,” and say they appreciate all the extra work on their mother’s part to make it that way, neither want to live with the same uncertainty mom has. They don’t see themselves joining up.
Lily Connolly, on the other hand, thinks she might, and she is definitely game to someday be a military mom. But, says the eighth grader with a smile, that topic is still a long way off.
Lily’s mom puts everyone else before herself and always thinks of the positive. Every morning she reminds Lily and her sister, Shannon, not to fight, helping the girls do their part. However, Lily admits, in the moment it isn’t always as easy to think of others as mom can make it seem.
“She is the best mom ever. She is wonderful, beautiful and a great teacher just as well as a mother,” says Shannon.
And while their mom misses the companionship of dad when he’s deployed, what she also misses out on is personal time. It used to be when dad was home he’d take the girls when coaching Shannon’s water polo team, leaving mom a few, precious minutes free from the responsibility of others.
From his deployment, the message John Connolly sends his wife is: “Thank you for the strength you bring to us when we’re down, the attentiveness you bring to our needs and the love that makes our lives so full.”
That mission, says Lily, “it’s definitely hard, but Mom doesn’t like to talk about it because it makes her sad.” It’s a job she enjoys more when her husband is home to share in it. That’s why, when their spouses are away, military moms need extra support from their children, Lily says.
Robert agrees that there is more for military kids to do when the dads are off, which can be hard on them as well. He shrugs. They have military parents as role models, after all. It’s doable, Robert says – even if it isn’t necessarily fun.
Rachael Kaslow repeats what all the others say – in a word – their moms are strong, independent women who believe in family and eagerly do whatever it takes to keep their families together. Rachael fights off tears as she tries to put into words just how much her mom means to her and her siblings.
She sighs, looks up and tries to smile. “I’m sorry,” she says wiping away a tear. “She just means so much to us.”
Sister Cayla, claiming not to be good with words, sticks to repeating her mother’s favorite saying; “Being a military mom is the hardest job in the Army.”
“Mom hopes dad will retire, but he loves what he does and he is he good at it,” says Rachael. It’s a terrible dilemma military moms have to face – the need to support their spouses as they set off to do something that drastically, and negatively affects their own lives.
Now an adult, Rachael, who works with her father when he’s stateside, is experiencing first-hand the economic impact her mom has to deal with every time her father is deployed. It isn’t easy – especially on top of everything else.
Unlike some of the others, Rachael grew up with her roots solidly in the Valley. The support of the community always surrounded her family, particularly when her dad is away: Karen Jones, Kathy Heringer – too many others to name, she says. By and large they all agree, the Valley is a good place for military kids to be.
But for other military moms, community support is sometimes missing. Focus and acclaim go to the men serving and not to the moms working hard to make it possible. Nearly universally the kids say that it is better to ask “How are you doing,” instead of “When is he coming back?”
“Just asking that simple question can mean a lot,” says Rachael. The answer to the latter is always: not soon enough.
In an era where it is not unusual for people to bestow thanks on men in uniform, there are a lot of kids thankful as well for the extra effort, love and attention of their military moms.
It is a sentiment they’d like their county to share – especially this Mother’s Day.