Military wives, military moms
Published: May 10, 2011
The three of us were laughing over chips and salsa in downtown Dallas, far from our families, our daily lives and the war when Nancy’s cell phone rang. She answered it and spoke to her husband, while Linny and I continued our light-hearted chatter at a slightly lower volume.
I glanced at Nancy during her phone conversation and saw she was near tears. After hanging up, she turned her attention back to us for a few minutes, dabbing surreptitiously at her eyes.
We continued talking for a short time, respecting her reserve, but it soon gave way. Abruptly, Nancy’s eyes locked on mine and she said, “Mitchell is going to the war.” Her tears fell freely then – tears of concern for her youngest son.
I could only grab her arm in sympathy. Linny, whose son served in Iraq, took each of us by the hand and said, “We’re praying right now.” And we did, drawing curious glances from nearby diners at the busy restaurant.
Mitchell and my son were cowboys together – also Transformers, Batman and Robin – when they were preschoolers and our families were stationed at the same Air Force base. Now grown up and an airman, Mitchell awaits orders to serve in the same war his father joined at it’s beginning.
His mother and I pondered the tragedies of September 11, 2001, over the phone. We wondered together how such terrible things could happen and when – not if – our military husbands would be summoned to the conflict.
Soon they were. By then we were no longer stationed at the same base, but we were close enough that Nancy and I could spend occasional weekends together while our husbands were gone. We were strong for each other and even more so for our children, then and through several more deployments.
When I first met Linny, another military wife, her son was deployed to Iraq. She gave a small card with his picture, name and address to me and to other friends, asking us to pray for him during his deployment. We did.
He returned safely and was preparing to process out of the Army in the fall of 2009. On the morning of Nov. 5, he’d planned to be at the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Center, but overslept. Later, he called to let his family know he was okay after a soldier-turned-terrorist killed 13 and injured many more that day.
Linny said that event was worse than any deployment.
“In Iraq, you kind of expect that there are bad guys out there,” she said, “When they’re on their base at Fort Hood, Texas, you think they’re safe.”
Another friend, Debby, said she never considered that her son would grow up to serve in the same war as his military father, but he did.
She said maternal instincts come into play, even for adult children.
“Your role for the first 18 years of your child's life is to be their teacher and protector,” said Debby, whose son was wounded in Afghanistan.
“This is your baby. When your child is wounded, you would give anything you own to take the pain yourself.”
Linny said she realized her days as her son’s protector were over the day he left to join the Army.
“He had to go off and be a man,” she said.
“I felt like my heart was being yanked out of me.”
When she first saw her son after boot camp, she recognized the transformation from little boy to confident young man.
“He’s chiseled and has this bright smile,” Linny said. “You know that he has gone through some tough times and he has come through just shining, confident.”
That reassured her that he was prepared for deployment. Nancy said she and her husband have complete confidence in Mitchell’s training also, though letting go is difficult.
Linny’s advice to military moms like Nancy, particularly during deployment, is to depend on a small group of understanding friends for prayer and support.
I’m already signed up for that duty. Nancy and I, true to our friendship and our military-wife experiences, will be strong for each other, our husbands and our children.