Deployed moms missing children on Mother's Day
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina —– Mother’s Day is one of the most important dates 1st Sgt. Audrey McCaskill and her daughter celebrate every year. But this year they will not be able to do it together.
A member of the U.S. Army Reserve deployed to Bosnia with 312th Postal Company, McCaskill is one of many putting military duty before family on this day.
Maj. Carly Hale of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Infantry Division left her 2-year-old son, Douglas Hotter, to come to Bosnia.
Being away from her son at such an early stage in his life is “very, very hard,” she said.
“There’s this connection you can’t explain,” Hale said. “It’s a person in your life you love more than you thought you’d ever love anyone like that.”
Instead of being there as Douglas learns his ABCs and how to use the potty, she hears about it through her husband. She sees her son growing through digital photos in e-mails.
The traditions the deployed military mothers have developed will have to wait for the next year, whether that means cooking and spending time with family the way Sgt. 1st Class Alice Smelley of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Infantry Division does, or a day of going to the amusement park and riding bumpers cars, as McCaskill does with her daughter, Adrien.
This Mother’s Day, the plan is to open gifts, make phone calls and try not to get too homesick.
“It’ll probably be another day at work,” Smelley said.
Sgt. Patricia Leahy plans to keep busy this Sunday with church, cleaning and laundry.
Though they cannot do much thousands of miles away, these mothers try to stay up-to-date with their children’s lives. Smelley does not want to give up control and inquires about how school is going. Capt. Deborrah McCoy of 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment helps her daughter learn to read by sending her cards.
Hale tries to stay present in her son’s life through e-mail, phone calls and occasional video-teleconferencing session, but receives mostly “bye-byes” and “hellos,” from young Douglas.
While they celebrate on Mother’s Day, they also remember their mothers.
Family support, especially that of their mothers, comes to play in balancing the duties owed Uncle Sam and those of motherhood.
“I have a lot of support, and I guess that helps me out,” McCoy said. “They’re being better taken care of than if it was me, myself,” McCoy said.
Her mother is taking care of her 6-year old daughter, Saysha, and helps with her son, Brian Foster, 14, while she is deployed.
They all credit their mothers for making them strong individuals and hope to pass that on to their children.
Smelley, in fact, catches herself sounding like her mother, giving advice to her children.
She never forgets to sends her flowers on Mother’s Day.
Leahy’s grandmother has taken the role of the surrogate mother to her children while she is away.
While the grandmothers and the family members can help the children, all the deployed mothers have are one another and small mementos.
Unfortunately, McCoy’s piece of luggage with her children’s photos was lost on her way to Bosnia, so all she has to cling to is a letter her daughter wrote.
Pictures of Douglas decorate Hale’s desktop, and she keeps photos by her bed so she can see him before she turns in every night.
“We hope that what we do with military, that we’ll be able to pass that on to our children,” Hale said. “You have to give back to society, and at times you have to make personal sacrifices to do that.”
For these and other military moms the old saying applies, Leahy said.
“Your mama wears combat boots,” she said, “and we fit that.”