Military moms find ways to conquer the distance
Stars and Stripes May 9, 2004
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Before she deployed to Bosnia, Sgt. Rosie McGhee spent time every morning fixing the hair of her 2-year-old daughter, Simone.
In addition to bringing along photos of her daughter, she also carried a favorite hair bow to Bosnia with her.
While dedicated to the military work, McGhee and other mothers deployed far from home try hard to keep a connection with their children, but it’s not easy, they say.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” said McGhee, who is assigned to the Alabama-based 336th Postal Detachment of the Army Reserve. “I can just hear [her] voice in my ears.
“I’m afraid when I come back she won’t know who her mom is. She may be scared to come to me. It’s not a good feeling,” the Montgomery, Ala., native said.
Phone calls every weekend offer a little reassurance.
“Her dad says she says ‘mama’ and points to my picture,” McGhee said.
When it comes to being an on-the-go mom, McGhee is not alone.
Amy Jensen used her drawing skills to develop a special bond with her son, Zackary. While deployed to Albania in 1999, Jensen would send drawings to then 3-year-old Zackary.
“We found other ways to be close while being away,” said Jensen, who spent 8½ years in the military.
Although she arrived in Bosnia only a month ago to work on a civilian job with Kellogg, Brown and Root, she already has drawings of flowers and spiders on her office door ready to be mailed home to her son.
Zackary, now 7, sends mom his schoolwork.
Her 1-year-old daughter, Sage, may be a little too young for drawings, so Jensen sings to her on the phone.
“I sing just a bunch of nonsense,” she said.
The job keeps Jensen, of Colorado Springs, Colo., busy 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and she looks forward to the phone calls every night.
She does not hope for gifts on this Mother’s Day.
“It’s not so much the gifts, as even a small letter saying ‘Hi Mommy.’”
Like McGhee, Jensen hopes that Dad is doing the hair and putting dresses on her little girl.
Sgt. 1st Class Viola Millard’s children aren’t as young, but parting with them for a nine-month military deployment is just as hard.
“Now that they’re older, it affects them a lot more,” said Sgt. 1st Class Viola Millard of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 38th Infantry Division.
The mother of four — Kim, 17, Matthew, 15, Kevin, 14, and Courtney, 10, said she would be spending Mother’s Day at the park doing fun stuff if she were home in Bloomington, Ind.
But in Bosnia, Millard will try to make the best of it with a phone call to her children, a care package from home and the company of other mothers at Eagle Base. A special poem from her youngest daughter, Courtney, is coming in the care package, and Millard is looking forward to it.
While the deployment is a vacation from her regular mother’s duties and cooking and laundry, she misses the home life.
“Especially with a house full of kids, you miss the voices,” Millard said.
While thousands of miles stand between deployed mothers and their children on this Mother’s Day, it will still be special “in thought and prayers,” Millard said.
But for McGhee, the distance is too great.
“It’s gonna be very different because she’s not around,” McGhee said of her daughter. “I won’t have her to share that special moment.
“It’s gonna be a normal day for me because I’m not home to celebrate it.”