By Lori Prang
As a mother, you expect moments where your child begins tomove away from you slowly; the first day of kindergarten, the first sleepover, and the first day of college. But you can never really prepare yourself for your child going off to war.
It was one of the most emotional weeks in my life while Samantha got ready for deployment this past week and a half. Samantha’s upcoming tour has loomed in the distance for months. We talked about it very lightheartedly. It drew closer and we still were very calm and casual about it. It was too abstract, perhaps. Her last deployment plans to Iraq were cancelled last year at the last minute so is that why we treated this one so casually? I’m not sure.
Samantha had a nice two-week leave home where she visited with friends and family and prior to that I was down with her at her post for the 4thof July holiday. We drove her car back home together so she could store it here during her deployment. It still was abstract to me since she was only given a window of time that the deployment could occur. So I took a Scarlett O’Hara type attitude toward it and said to myself, “I can’t think about this today .I’ll think about it tomorrow.” While home on leave, she got a text message from a fellow soldier saying they would leave within the week. Now what?
A little background about my Samantha—she doesn’t do wel lwith change. Any kind of change can throw her for a loop and bring out all of her anxiety. The Army has provided herwith a routine and structure that she really thrives in, except when it doesn’t, like when there is an impending deployment that is days away. Yep—that will do the trick.
The good-bye at O’Hare where I had to put her on a plan eback to her base was exceptionally emotional as one might guess. Knowing how much she was struggling with this next step in her life and how I wouldn’t see her for months due to the distance involved brought out the ugly cry inme. I guess that’s to be expected .Is it different if your soldier is a son and not a daughter? I think from a mother’s point of view, it’s not. A mother sees their child’s pain (even if that child is 20) and her heart hurts.
As she prepared all she needed to get ready, I had multiple phone calls a day from her questioning how she was going do this. She had a lot of regrets for choosing the military at this point. There are only so many ways a mother can say, “You can do this” and I exhausted them all.
I reminded her how she was like this right before she leftfor basic training and again when she reported to her permanent duty station and each and every time she surprised herself and rose to the occasion and did well. This experience was going to be no different. I truly believe that will be the case. I also told her these feelings are normal for any big life change—new job, starting college, getting a new boss and so on.
The difference here is that she can’t quit the Army. The feeling of being stuck or trapped can be intimidating to anyone that feeling of being stuck or trapped, but that’s the reality of the military. She signed a contract with them. It has forced her to mature and follow through on something she’s not crazy about right now. As her mother and as tough as this has been for her, it’s been a good life lesson. She just needs reminding of her own inner strength and as her cheerleader that has become my daily job.
I am asked if I am afraid she’ll get hurt over there. I am not. Not in the least. I can’t let that get into my head or it might paralyze me. College campus shootings over the last few years as well as the recent events in Aurora Colorado tell me that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Samantha’s enemy is her homesickness and she’ll figure out how to manage it. As for myself, I find that Ihave my cell phone with me day and night in case she gets to make a 10-minute call. I check Facebook more times a day than I care to admit looking for her little ‘green dot’ to pop up. I do miss being able to randomly text her during the day with some silly thought or observation. She’s 7, 500 milesaway, but she’s left behind a wonderful group of people who love her and support her and carry her in their thoughts and hearts. Throw a few prayers in there, too. She’ll do fine. I’ll do fine.
Army Strong, Sam and hurry home! Hooah!
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