I have a story I seldom share.
Many (many, many) years ago, I found myself sitting square in the middle of an Air Force recruiter’s office. Staring across the desk at a very stately gentleman, I contemplated the course of my life. At 19 years young, I wanted more than to merely get by in life- much less to wait tables for pennies on the dollar for the foreseeable future. I wanted my life to have meaning, to carry purpose.
I signed an enlistment contract in 2005, a little over seventeen years ago. A short while later, I was standing in the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, LA, repeating an oath to support and defend.
Proud. I was proud, proud of myself, of my choice to pursue the life I wanted. Overjoyed at the thought of supporting myself, beginning again, and building something sustainable, I couldn’t imagine a future that did not include military service.
As it turns out, life had different plans for me. Before I shipped out to Basic Training, I fell flip-flops over tea cups in love with man in uniform. Meeting in the Fall of 2005, we started our relationship knowing I had made the choice to serve and our time together would have certain limitations.
Alas, when the time came to say “good bye,” there was a proposal in its place and a desperate request to maintain stability. I was released from my contract before I left for Basic Training and, for nearly two decades, I never looked back.
My husband and I have been married for nearly half our lives and we have built a life that I could have only imagined. He has been active-duty in the United States Air Force for just over 18 years and we now have four, high-energy and dynamic children, the oldest of which is our daughter, who is now 14 years-old and a freshman in high school.
For the last four years, I have singlehandedly classically homeschooled our kiddos. This summer, literally only a few weeks ago, my older children approached me with a proposal. They wanted to try public school and both my son and daughter, Hannah, requested to participate in extra curricular activities. While my son was more interested in football, I was genuinely surprised when our sweet Hannah showed a desire to join in JROTC.
Like a ton of bricks, it hit me. I’m almost old enough to be “military mom…”
After an overstated gasp, my curiosity took the lead. Why do you want to get into JROTC? Tell me more about that. Warrior Team sounds amazing!
The conversation jumped off after a neighbor- who happens to run the JROTC program at Hannah’s local high school, offered to let her audit a JROTC class over the summer break.
My kiddo came home beaming. “It was AWESOME, Mom! We did PT, learned a million new things, and they have a competitive team!”
The excitement spilling out onto our family dinner table was both a joyful experience and a bit surreal.
All of a sudden, my mind raced back to that MEPS in Shreveport and I could visualize Hannah swearing in. That familiar feeling of pride surged, while a tug began to pull at my heart. It was then that I realized I only have four summers left with my firstborn and that I’m not quite ready to be military mom.
Over the next few weeks, I would hear all about how invested her fellow cadets were, or how she mastered marching. I made a mental note not to cry when I saw her in uniform for the first time. Little things became more precious as the items she asked for just affirmed how fast she was growing up, like needing a hair donut for a bun in regs or a shoe shine kit from the store.
My heart swells with pride at the fact that my sweet girl is so fascinated with developing herself as a leader and fierce competitor. It also aches because the time has gone by way too soon. I hope that, as she grows and builds the life she wants, that I can find the still, small moments in between to enjoy the time we have together. After all, I’m still just “mom.” Maybe “military mom” will be a title I can enjoy in the far distant future.