What Does It Mean To Be an Army Parent, Part One

as submitted by Maryleta

Just received your letter and wanted to answer your question “What does it mean to you to be a military mom?” My son, Nathan, joined the Army 2 years ago. It was the hardest thing to let my son do what he wanted with his life. My son was only 20 years old when he enlisted. I knew the way things were going; he would end up in Iraq at some point in time. As we went through basic training, getting stationed at a base, extensive training to deploy the anxiety of his future grew more and more. When we finally got the date and went to the deployment ceremonies, the time was here. The hardest thing to do was let my little boy, now a handsome, strong young man, go off to war. Words cannot explain how proud I was of my son. I thought of all the things in life he had accomplished and how much we all love each other. Life has a greater meaning to our family. He is fighting for others to have a better way of life and he truly believes in what he is doing. As a military family, we might not always support the decisions; however we do whole heartily support our troops. I never really understood the ARMY motto, “An ARMY of ONE”, until my son was in the ARMY. We are all ONE. ONE of a family, my son is no longer just my son; he is the son of every military family. Their son’s are now my son’s. I have a wonderful support group that will help me through anything, because they are living the same life I am. My son has taught me to live one day at a time and make the most of everything you do and believe. I have learned to say what I need to say, I don’t expect him to understand my unspoken words. I look forward to the late night calls, the long e-mails, and laugh at his crazy jokes. I have learned to smile in the midst of the greatest heart ache that I feel. I have learned to be strong for him, as he does his job, which I know is very hard and exhausting. I have learned my heart ache is felt by each mother that has a soldier that is fighting for our country. Also I have learned sometimes it is better not to entertain other ignorance. I look for the words to give a heart that is hurting in the midst of what our nation is facing. And I also pray for those who do not support our troops, for they do not understand. So to me the greatest meaning of being a military mom is: Stand proud in the midst of pain, for our troops are human, they are the reason we all can put our heads on our pillows at night and sleep without fear!”

As submitted by Marian
My daughter and son-in-law married in August 2009 and my son-in-law was shipped out to BCT September 2009. They have a two-year-old and one due in March 2010. Initially, my daughter moved into a small cottage located on the property her sister-in-law owns a few days before my son’s scheduled leave. Within four days of his leaving, my daughter called me crying. The water pipes had burst and she was having to stay with her sister-in-law and her family. I went to pick her up and she has never left.

When she informed her in-laws of her decision to stay with me, all hell broke loose. My son-in-law’s parents live an hour away from me and since my daughter has been living here, they have demanded visitation rights (every weekend) with my granddaughter, insisted that I taxi one way (my daughter doesn’t drive) for their visitation and have generally excluded my daughter from all family gatherings. My little granddaughter was being shuffled around like a child of divorce rather than having all of her family unite to support her through all the changes in her life.

The in-laws are not happy about my son-in-law’s decision to join the Army and have schemed for numerous ways to have him discharged. They have blamed my daughter for his decision, accused her of abusing my grandchild, accused her of having an affair and wrote my son-in-law while he was in BCT with these accusations and lies. They have also tried to convince my daughter (to no avail) that it would be in the best interests of my granddaughter if she were adopted by my son-in-law’s sister! Prior to his joining the Army, his family would frequently refuse to babysit, much less insist on visitation every weekend.

Prior to BCT Graduation, they were unsure if they could take time away from work to attend the Graduation ceremonies (five hour drive away) and did not decide until a few days before. By then my daughter and I had decided to drive up a day ahead and get a hotel room for Family Day after Graduation. As it turned out, the in-laws stayed in the same hotel upstairs from our room for the same amount of time we were there. They monopolized the entire day and my daughter and Granddaughter had a total of one hour alone with their husband/Daddy.

Rather than supporting their son’s decision, they are trying to convince him to get out. They have gone so far as to call his Captain at AIT to complain that he has mental depression and should not be in the Army. They insisted that he see the doc at mental, which took time away from his training and he has now been recycled.

I understand how heart-breaking it must be for your son/daughter to choose a way of life that differs from what you may want for them. All of my kids have chosen lives I would have preferred them to choose otherwise, but they are adults and like it or not, all I can do is support their choices and love them anyway. I do not interfere unless it affects my life, and this has.

I am writing not to complain, but to hopefully help others in similar situations. Please allow your adult children to live their lives as they see fit and support your son/daughter-in-law that is adjusting to life without their spouse and your grandchildren’s other parent. Please do not add more stress to an already stressful situation and realize that the military does not recruit or accept little babies. Your soldier is an adult, cut the apron strings and love them as an adult, not a small child. Soldier, if your parents are behaving as though you are a child, it is time for you to let them know where the boundaries are, do not leave that up to your spouse. When you let your parents know you are an adult, they just might treat you like one. Spouses, do not allow yourself to be caught in the middle or allow your children to be treated as a replacement for the child they feel they have lost or as a pawn in some game. The sooner the boundaries are made clear, the better for all related.

Proud of my soldier!

as submitted by Ginny
Well before I became a military Mom I had been a military wife for 22 years until my husband retired from the US Army. I thought being a wife was difficult, but nothing compares to being a military mom. As a wife we can travel and live most places with our husbands. We can be with them and share life with each other.

When my son enlisted during this time of war, my heart felt things it had never felt before. I felt sadness, pride, worry, fear… I felt courage that I received from my son. I got comfort from my husband from his experience. Watching my son walk away from us at the airport, for the very first time, I felt my heart ache like never before. He turned to give us one last wave and then I watched him until he was out of my sight and I felt such loneliness.. That night I sat in his room and cried..

I am so proud of my son and his bravery. I display everything there is to display to show my son is serving.. I miss him greatly and the worry never goes away, but I pray that God will keep him safe a secure always.. I look forward to him coming home for good….

as submitted by Renee
My son enlisted into the Army at 20 years old, he was married in July of 2006, left for Boot Camp in October of 2006, and now his first child, my first grandchild was born February 28, 2007. My son has been able to come home after Boot Camp for two weeks, and he was able to come home for three days for the birth of his child. His commanding officers have been very gracious with allowing him to come home. My son told me when he was 10 years old that he was going to join the Army.

He is currently in training at Fort Lee Virginia and his wife, child and I will visit him in Virginia for his graduation from AIT. I have taken my son to the recruiting office to leave for Boot Camp, I have taken him to airports to fly back to bases, and each time my heart breaks more. I have had a very difficult time with him being gone, and now that he has a child, I feel more pain. I know in my heart that my son is doing what he has always wanted to do, be a soldier.

My son is a good person with a big heart, and he is a family man. He has made the greatest sacrifice joining the Army, and being away from his family. I am learning to cope with him being away from home, and for me I now feel pride, and love for my son’s decision to join the army. As a parent of a solider, I have to support his decisions, trust him, and love him. My son wants to retire from the Army, and with that in mind I must learn how to deal with being away from him. My heart will always long for him to be near me, but my pride, and joy in seeing my son doing what he has always wanted to do, can ease some of the pain.

I pray for every soldier’s safe return, and I pray for every family who has made the same sacrifices as my family, and please pray for my son, and family.

As submitted by Cindy
My son joined the Army at 17. I wanted him to wait at least until he was 18. He had done a lot of research, and told me that all he had ever wanted to be was a soldier. I will never forget seeing him leave our home with his recruiter. We got to see him “turn blue.” He turned 21 when he was deployed to Iraq. He  returned safely. He decided to try for Special Forces. He is now a Green Beret and deployed to Afghanistan. He is my hero.

I think about him every day. I pray that he will stay safe.
I write at least once a week, sometimes more often. We send him packages every month. He spent his 23rd birthday overseas.

I am so very proud of him. He doesn’t want me to make a “big deal” about his service, so I brag all I can to everyone else I know! LOL

He hasn’t been able to come home because of his training, so I am really looking forward to seeing him when he gets finished with this deployment. Hopefully, he’ll get to come home.

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This article was written by a visitor to the site. All of our contributors served in the military, are married to someone who serves in the military, or have a child who serves in the military. These Army soldiers and/or family members enjoy helping others by sharing their experiences.

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  1. My son is my hero! I have 4 beautiful boys..all gentlemen, well mannered, honor rolls students, intelligent, and College students. For one full year, I financed my son’s education in an IVY LEAGUE..Then, I lost my job, and everything I have accumulated over the years. I cried for days, and I said to myself..I have lost everything…but, I still have God, my life , my health and my sons.. One of son has decided to join the Army. I am scared, concerned, but, he wants to do it. He wants to be a MEDICAL DOCTOR ..ever since he was 5 years old..when he used to see me with his younger brother , taking him to the Doctor.. he told me: maman, one day , I will be a Surgeon . He entered college at 17 and he told me one day: You see these hands? they are the hands of a Surgeon.. I pray for all soldiers and encourage all mums..it is painful sometimes.. but, we have to stay brave, as one family. All soldiers are in my prayers and my daily Thoughts, May God the almighty protect all AMERICAN SOLDIERS and MAY THEY ALL RETURN HOME SOUND AND SAFE. ALL SOLDIERS ARE HEROES, REGARDLESS THEIR RANKS, SKIN COLOR, ORIGINS. THEY ARE ALL ONE FAMILY. MY PRAYERS ARE WITH ALL. MY FATHER WAS IN THE ARMY AND FOUGHT IN WAR WORLD 2.

  2. My son is not my “natural” son. We met each other just before he turned 18. Long story here, but he joined the army just 6 months ago and is deploying to Germany this weekend. Because I am not his “real” mother, many of the emotions and feelings I have are dismissed by those around me. Because he was almost grown when I become his “mom” (I’ve been through so many life milestones with him) others have a hard time accepting that a person can “adopt” someone at this age. Has no one really watched and understood the movie “The Blindside?”

    A piece of my heart and soul is going off to Germany. If he was my “real” son, I’m sure others would be supporting me and helping me deal with the emotions of my son leaving. Now I hear, why does he mean so much to you? Why is this bothering you so much? Ah… because you don’t have to give birth to someone or have legal documents, to have your heart adopt a child, and that is what he was when we met.

    I realize Germany is not the same as Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Syria, but he is still in a position to be called up to head to those hot spots. I worry. I love him I am so proud of him. He has struggled with many issues and has grown into a confident, strong, loving and caring young man, no longer a boy.

    There must be other Army “moms” in my position. You are not alone. I understand the feeling of watching my son leave, the misunderstanding of those around me, and the cruel and hurtful, uninformed remarks they make. I support my son, I support my Military, and I support you, unofficial mom of a soldier. Hang in there, we can be Army Strong together!

    1. I’m also in your “shoes”. That made me feel better just knowing someone can feel this way for their ‘step’ ❤️

  3. I just found out about a week or two ago that my daughter joined the military! I know nothing. What Branch, where she’s at, And I don’t know if She’s Ok! Please Someone Help Me!

  4. I am a mother of not one but two young men that have decided to join the Army one I always knew wanted to join and could see it coming in time as he grew up but didn’t make it any easier. I have seen him at every mile stone he has met and he has been home two times and my other son has only been home once. I am so very proud of them both but it hurts every time I have to tell them till we meet again I love you because I cant say good-bye. I have had a very hard time but been there biggest supporters. Its not easy but I am doing the best I can to just let them live there lives. I think my biggest fear is something happening and not being there to help them to loose one of my children I am all for letting them grow up but know that day could come scares me to death. Does it ever get easier? I don’t think I will ever get use to it. But I will stand and be proud like I have always done for my children that have grown into very strong very independent adults. That are going to do bigger better things then I could have ever expect them to be. I am a Army MOM

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