A Mother's Day Tribute
I assure you, both groups are heroes.
The term "Military Mothers" describes two distinct groups of women. On the one hand, it describes mothers whose sons and daughters are members of the military. On the other, it describes mothers who are themselves members of the military.
And we'd like to wish them, and all the other mothers out there, a Happy Mother's Day!
Mothers whose children are in the military and deployed to a war zone far from home, live with daily fear and worry for the lives of those to whom they gave birth, and nurtured into the fine young men and women they are. They worry that those children may return home with missing limbs or with PTSD, and may not be the same person who deployed, or that they may return in a flag-draped casket.
And mothers who must leave their children behind to go to a war zone far from home, live with daily fear for their own lives because they worry about the possibility that their children may have to grow up without a mother. And they worry about the impact their absence will have on little psyches, and whether that impact will be lasting.
We've had the privilege to know and know of remarkable members of both groups, and we have great admiration and respect for them.
On this Mother's Day, we'd like to pay tribute to military mothers, and to share with you stories about a few of them.
Active Duty Mothers
It takes a truly exceptional mother to be able to leave her children behind to be cared for by other family members while she deploys in service to her country. Some criticize these women as selfish, and more interested in their own careers than their children, for doing so. How incredibly ignorant and short-sighted.
These women care so much about the future of their children and grandchildren (and ours) that they are determined to personally do their part to ensure their children have the opportunity to grow up in peace and freedom. How can a mother care more than that?
It's gut-wrenching for these women to be torn away from their children, especially little ones too young to understand why mommy is leaving, or that she's not abandoning them and she will be back. It's heart-rending to miss their birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Days, first day of school, losing their first tooth, school plays, piano recitals, soccer games, proms, and even just skinned knees. How about missing their first steps, or their first words? Those things are priceless. (And military dads miss them all the time, too.)
But these brave and loving mothers know that SOMEONE has to defend our country and the freedom we enjoy as its citizens, and if they aren't willing to, who will? So they go, and they serve proudly and with honor, knowing that they have done all they can to give their children the gift of freedom to live the lives they choose. Sacrificing the ability to share those occasions with their children is the price they pay so that their children will be able to live in freedom. I seriously doubt that one minute goes by that they're not thinking of those children, and counting the days till they get home.
In 2008, PBS aired a 10-hour documentary film titled "Carrier", which followed the officers and crew of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on a 6-month deployment. The last episode featured the "Tiger Cruise," an opportunity for crew members to bring family members onboard to live on the ship for a few days during the transit home from the last port-of-call, in this case from Honolulu to San Diego. It's a rare opportunity for family members to get a sense of what life is like for their service member when the ship is at sea, and is always a favorite.
I can tell you from first-hand experience, there's nothing like being there to help you understand. Obviously, this doesn't give them a total sense of what it's really like, but it certainly is better than simply listening as someone tries to explain it!
I listened to shipboard life described to me for years by my Navy officer husband, and then I had the opportunity to live onboard (a different ship) for a short time as a Navy officer myself.
It's something that's just so foreign to a civilian that it's impossible to fully grasp just from touring the ship while in port and listening to someone explain what it's like, so the Tiger Cruise is an invaluable opportunity to help family members understand life at sea.
During that show, we saw 19-year-veteran Ensign Susan Clapp, with prior enlisted service, who could easily stand in for Reba McIntyre. Supervisor of the ship's Air Traffic Control Center, she was eagerly anticipating the Tiger Cruise, when she would be reunited with her three children after six long months apart. I believe the eldest was about 12 or 13 at the time. She would have the opportunity to show them what their mom's job was like when she was away from them.
And then we saw her hopes dashed as her ex-husband, who had custody while she was deployed, decided at the last minute not to let them come. We learned that he was engaged in a custody battle, attempting to take her children away from her. Because this is a family-friendly site, it's impossible for me to describe here what I think of a man who would stoop to this level. Can he really believe that's in the best interest of his children?
Her attorney intervened, however, and the judge ruled that the children would be allowed to visit their mother and ride the ship home with her. Yay!! Score one for active duty mothers everywhere (and thank you to that lawyer for standing up for her). We rejoiced with her as she finally saw her children in the airport when they arrived in Hawaii and they were reunited after six long months.
So, Ensign Clapp, and all other active duty mothers around the world, we salute you and wish you a very Happy Mother's Day!
Mothers of Active Duty
We've written before about Gold Star Service, and talked about the difference between Blue Star Families and Gold Star Families. A Blue Star Service Banner indicates a family member is serving in the military. The blue star is either covered or replaced with a gold star when a family member dies in service or from injuries received in service. Multiple stars on a banner represent multiple family members serving.
Probably one of the most well-known and controversial women to wear the label of military mother and Gold Star mother is Cindy Sheehan. Cindy catapulted herself to celebrity status after her son, Casey, was killed on active duty in Iraq on April 4, 2004. She garnered worldwide attention after camping outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, to protest the war and specifically, the Bush Administration.
I'm disappointed and saddened by Cindy Sheehan's actions, and personally feel that she dishonors her son and his service. I believe that he would be hopelessly embarrassed if he were here to see and hear her. It seems she's doing everything in her power to make certain her son's death was in vain, and to increase the number of other mothers who have to endure the pain she feels at the loss of their own sons and daughters.
Like the other anti-war protesters, Cindy Sheehan is providing aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war by attempting to weaken the country's resolve to finish the job. That's the definition of treason, the offense considered the most heinous by our Founding Fathers, and punishable by death. In my opinion, her actions make her a traitor to the country her son gave his life to protect.
I mention Cindy first to get her out of the way, because she is the exception to the rule. Once she became a household name, she challenged Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress. So it would appear that her media attention-grabbing MIGHT have served another purpose besides honoring her son. After all, it's much easier to run for election when people know who you are. So becoming a household name seems to have served Cindy's own selfish purpose.
I've not had the experience of sending a child off to war, because I've not had children of my own, so some may say I'm not qualified to make the remarks I have about Cindy Sheehan. I don't know how I would feel in her circumstances. I've never had to suffer her anguish. But I have seen the example set by other Gold Star Mothers, who have turned their grief into a positive force.
OK - enough of that. We're here to pay tribute to the truly exceptional military mothers out there, and there are many.
In stark contrast to Cindy Sheehan is Gold Star Mom Debbie Lee, proud mother of Marc Alan Lee, the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq. Marc gave his life to save that of a fellow SEAL who had been injured, standing in the line of fire to create a diversion that allowed the rescue. Debbie has been a powerful force in speaking out in support of our troops and their mission, and has been active in Move America Forward and its efforts to defend our troops against attacks from leftists like Code Pink.
She chooses to honor Marc's service by standing up for his fellow service members, and we know he would be so proud of her. We have several pages about Debbie and her son Marc Lee:
Then there's Margy Bons, whose eldest son, Marine Sergeant Michael Marzano, was killed in Iraq on Mother's Day 2005. Today is no doubt a bittersweet day for her as she celebrates Mother's Day with her three other children, and we want her to know she's not forgotten on Mother's Day by the military family. Margy channels her energy into honoring her son by serving as the president of the Arizona chapter of Operation Homefront, a support organization that is part of Community Support for Our Military, the DoD initiative to coordinate organizations supporting the troops, originally known as America Supports You.
There are thousands more like them, choosing to honor their loved ones' service and sacrifice in a number of different ways. All hoping to make life better for another mother's child in uniform, or for another mother unwillingly inducted into the sisterhood of Gold Star mothers.
Blue Star Mothers
And there are thousands upon thousands of proud Blue Star mothers throughout the country, bursting with pride at the service of their sons and daughters.
One of the more famous Blue Star mothers is Cindy McCain, wife of Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain. Cindy has a son in the Marine Corps who served in Iraq, and another son who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and is a Navy helicopter pilot.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Cindy appeared as a guest host on ABC's morning talk show, "The View," sporting a Blue Star banner pin, and another pin that spelled out "USMC" in rhinestones. And when asked about the meaning of her Blue Star pin, she sounded like the proud mother she is. Cindy has dedicated her life to improving the lives of children around the world, is active in a number of charitable causes, and is an inspiration to many.
Another Blue Star mother we're proud to know is Beverly Perlson, founder of "The Band of Mothers." Bev's son, Bronze Star recipient Sgt. John P. White, has served five deployments since 9/11, with the 82nd Airborne. Bev's website says she is "The Very Proud Mother of a United States Soldier 82nd Airborne, The Very Proud Sister of a United States Marine - Vietnam, and The Very Proud Daughter of a WWII Veteran." And it shows.
This petite blonde woman is fierce in her defense of our troops. The tag line for her site is "Warriors come from warriors." It's certainly true in Bev's case.
She's gone toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with Suzie (Medea) Benjamin and Code Pink, inviting Medea to "Get out of our country," while holding a sign that reads, "The original Medea murdered her own children. Medea Benjamin is murdering ours!"
She's taken on Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and John Murtha, letting them know exactly what she thinks of their disrespect and lack of support for our troops. Bev was in Washington supporting our troops and General Petraeus during the General's testimony to Congress in 2008, along with Gathering of Eagles, Brigade America and Vets for Freedom.
Some members of Vets for Freedom went to Murtha's office and asked for a few minutes of his time. One of them was a Marine who had been in Haditha, and he wanted to tell Murtha first-hand the truth about Haditha. They were rebuffed, told by the staff they couldn't "just walk in off the street and ask to speak to the Congressman without an appointment." There's the rub -- they HAD asked for an appointment and it was refused.
When they returned with that story to Bev's usual post on the corner in front of Nancy Pelosi's office, she was incredulous that the Congressman and/or his staff could be so rude to those veterans asking to speak with him and tell him the real story about an incident he spoke out about before learning the facts. So she marched off to give him a piece of her mind, as a taxpayer AND as the mother of a soldier who had just returned from his fifth deployment to a war zone. Bev admits that she did raise her voice when the staff was just as rude to her, but she spoke her piece and left.
Murtha's staff was SO intimidated by this petite woman (about 5'3") asking to speak to the Congressman, or at least one of his aides, that they called the Capitol Police - AFTER she had left their office! (How could they be intimidated if she was gone?) As Bev returned to her post, she was surrounded by several squad cars and a half dozen Capitol Police, who were pleasantly surprised that she was polite and courteous, and apologized to them that they were having to fill out all that paperwork.
If you'd like some insight into a military mother's heart, read her letter of thanks for her son's safe return from his fifth deployment.
We encourage you to visit Bev's site, read some of her letters, and follow the link to purchase a Band of Mothers logo t-shirt for all the military moms you know. Notice that Bev makes no money from the sale of these t-shirts. The money goes to support Gathering of Eagles and Wounded Warriors.
Please join us in expressing your appreciation to the military moms you know, and wish them all a very Happy Mother's Day!
There's another group of military mothers we pay tribute to.
Pay tribute to your own favorite military mother:
Honor your favorite military mom!
Share your story about the contributions and accomplishments of your favorite military mom. Recognize her achievements and let her know how proud of her you are, and how much you appreciate her!
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