A Military Mom's Basic Survival Guide
Your child has enlisted and you are now officially: A Military Mom!! Welcome to a very special group of women! You are now a part of a group of women that live on the wildest roller coaster that has ever existed. You will be more happy, more emotional, more spastic and more proud than you have ever thought you could be! Buckle up and hang on! Know that you are not alone. You have many who have gone before you and who stand beside you through the journey that you have begun. It WILL be okay and you WILL get through this "phase" in your life. My son is a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps and is currently deployed overseas on a ship. We are now in his last year of active service! I hope to provide you with a military mom's basic survival guide. Hopefully this article will give you the tools you need to begin your journey.
First thing you need to do is arm yourself with information. Talk to your child's recruiter and see if there is a support group in your area. Believe me you will want to know if it is there. You may never feel the need to attend, but knowing it is there, when and where to go is a comfort. There are websites for each branch of service that will provide you with information about enlisting requirements, training requirements and also information about deployments. Some branches also have support groups which will give you the power to cope. Check into it - you will be so glad you did! I became involved in the parent support forum found at www.MarineParents.com which gave me the information to make it through those months of boot camp. They were life savers and the keepers of my sanity!!
Next, be prepared to be on a roller-coaster of emotions. It is okay, we all go through these emotional changes. You are not in it alone and it is totally normal! Knowing that it is normal really helps. Talking to other military moms will help. My son wanted to be a Marine for years....12 to be exact, so I was fully aware that he would enlist. I expected it. It was the right choice for him. It was his heart's desire. I supported and continue to support his decision 110% - but I was a wreck! I still have days that it seems...well....distressing. He is safe, healthy and happy. I have no reason to complain, but he is not here with me and I miss him! You will miss your child too! I was so proud to be there at his graduation from boot camp! He was amazingly grown up and focused! He was thrilled to see us and NEVER have I felt so very LOVED!!! The pride and love was overwhelming! I have been utterly heartbroken when he has deployed and totally overjoyed at his return!! Roller-Coaster 101!! Realize: it will happen, you are normal, it will be okay and you will get through it so much better! Oh, and paper towels are more effective than facial tissues during crying jags! Seriously!
Gather together your survival tools. You will HAVE to write letters! Real letters! So, you will need stationary, cards, postage stamps, and pens. You will not be able to text, e-mail or call throughout periods of these years, so get prepared! Since you love your child you will need to make sure that you use plain white envelopes. You need to hand write your address on the envelopes as those with "cutesy" address labels and attention getting icons on them will generally get your child a bit of ridicule and maybe 20 push-ups. If you write cute things like "I love you!", hearts, xxxoooxxx, or drawings, it will get them push-ups for each item. You LOVE your child and would never intentionally cause them embarrassment or pain, so make sure you get plain white envelopes. This also goes for the stamp. DO NOT send your child a letter with a floral or romantic stamp on it. The post office will gladly provide you with patriotic stamps or something basic like the liberty bell. Make sure to address the letter exactly as your child instructs. Marine recruits are exactly that. Recruits. They do not become Marines until they complete the crucible and boot camp. Referring to your child as Marine or Private will get them into big trouble. Be sure to address them appropriately. If you send a lot of pictures you might want to slip them into a snack size zipper lock baggie.
Prepare to send boxes. Be careful to only include requested items while they are in boot camp or basic training. Sometimes additional items will be confiscated. The Drill Instructors are working on getting your child away from relying on "Mommy" to take care of them and by sending them treats, they may be ridiculed. Once they are out of basic, or boot camp, you will be able to send them their favorites and some extra treats. My son's favorite was the gel insoles for his boots! It would never have crossed his mind before enlisting! I also sent extra zipper lock baggies for him to put foot locker items in. Then, if they were instructed to "dump" their foot locker, he would have a quicker and easier time cleaning up the items. The baggies were perfect for letters, pictures, and other small items like nail clippers and shavers. We sent them slowly, one in each letter, varying the sizes. It was less conspicuous and he was better able to work it into his things. Again, be careful to send only what items they request.
Find a way to go to their graduation from boot camp. My stepson is in the Army and my son is a Marine. Their graduations were absolutely awesome! It was wonderful seeing all they have learned and it was comforting to know how very intensive their training was through the weeks they were gone. It gives me comfort to know that they are trained to handle anything. Both graduations were different, but the service members treat parents with the utmost respect. It is wonderful also to see your child after the weeks of separation and KNOW that they appreciate you and your love. Some branches have assistance to help parents get to the graduation ceremonies. Check into it! It is an investment in your child's life and your new found relationship.
Get a hobby or something to occupy your time, hands and mind. If you have other children still at home, make it a special point to include them in an ongoing activity. They will miss their sibling, believe it or not! If you are busy, the time will go faster and be more productive. It will give you something to do to keep your thoughts occupied and thereby reduce your stress! I began several new things. I learned to crochet, set up a "date" night with my younger son, set up a regular night with my grandchildren, began making my own jewelry, changed my style of clothes dressing, dyed my hair, and the list goes on! It is a coping mechanism. It works....that's all that matters! During the current deployment, I have begun writing these articles. My son is overseas and my stepson will be shipping out to Afghanistan soon. Keeping busy is the key to coping. Bless his heart, my husband just goes along with whatever is going on with me at the time. It makes his life easier! We have had 5 years of service so far and 1 more year of active to go, then 2 years of reserve. My stepson is in his 3rd deployment to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army Reserves, so I am not too confident that this will be my son's last deployment. I will have lots to keep busy with here though. I encourage you to consider writing about your experiences. You can write here on HubPages. Go to http://prektjr-dc.hubpages.com/_318830IH/user/new to sign up. It is very therapeutic.
Buy your child a bible. When your child leaves for boot camp, the only thing they will be allowed to take with them from home is a bible. Get them one. I bought a military bible. It had reference materials in it that were appropriate to the situations they would possibly encounter. Inside the covers, on every blank page, I wrote letters to my child of encouragement and support. I reminded him about how important he was and how he was able to accomplish any task he attempted. I wrote out those parent/child conversations on the empty pages I found within the bible. I also taped pictures of his family and girlfriend inside. Make sure there is nothing that will fall out if shaken. They will not allow any excess items that will fall out. I wrote addresses and phone numbers inside as well as birth dates of his loved ones. I knew that those dates would be important to him now that he could not be a part of them. It is amazing how important family becomes to them at this time. I marked scriptures that were important and wrote notes with explanations of the importance of them. It became a lifeline to his family. It reminded him that we were behind him and that he could follow his dream and succeed. Knowing that he had my support when he didn't have any contact helped me as much or more than it did him. It is essential to your survival. Having a relationship with my Lord is what has kept me strong. The ability to count on the power of God covering my child with his protective hand regardless of where he is and what is going on in the world has kept me moving forward each day. I know he is taken care of each and every moment. He has a relationship with God and he has grown. It is wonderful. It has been good.
You will need a military mom T-shirt or sweatshirt. It warns others of how fragile you are. It lets the world know that you are proud of your child, but fragile and may bawl at any moment. They will be compassionate and kind. Wear it when you are struggling and people will be more understanding. Seriously, it works. My employees knew that when I wore my Marine hoodie, I was depressed and they were ever ready with a busy and upbeat day! It now makes me feel connected to him somehow. Goofy, i know, but true.
Looking over the past years, I see that not only has my son grown into a mature and responsible adult, but I have too. I am much stronger in my faith. I am a better mother, wife, daughter and community member. I was self-centered before and now I am much more civic minded. I see the world differently. I appreciate the simple things like going for walks, hugging my loved ones and just about everything. Our servicemen and women do not have the ability to enjoy the small things in life that we take for granted. They sacrifice so much more than I had ever imagined before I became a military mom. I understand now how important it is to have your child with you for holidays. To be able to pick up the phone and call them whenever you like would be a treasured gift. It helps to know that you will be a much stronger and better person when it is all behind you. It is not easy, but you will survive. You will get through this one day.
Text Copyright 2011, Update 2014 Deborah M. Carey
Still Serving Strong!
Time has flown since I first penned this article. My Marine is a Sergeant now and he's married with dogs! His precious wife is a true Marine wife, supporting her husband with every fiber of her being! She has been a precious gift to us all. She was a blind date. His Marine buddy's wife had a cute little cousin coming to base to visit. They invited my son to join them at a concert and a Halloween party. He went, she knocked his socks off and they were married 2 weeks before his next deployment! During that deployment, she came to stay with us. Having her here gave us all a sense of having a part of him here with us. His heart. It was the longest deployment in recent Marine Corps history. Seriously! It was 321 days! Most Marine deployments last only about 7 months roughly 210 days! We were seriously missing him! We made it through...MANY paper towels later! We have had the blessing of having him stateside since! In addition, he has re-enlisted! That's right....another 8 year stint! He loves his job! God has blessed and he is happy. That's all a mom can ask for....even a Marine mom!! Waiting to see what the Marine Corps holds for us.....you see, when one of us enlisted....we all enlisted. United together and we are Corps to the core! There are a ton of cute quips that fit, but the best one of all is God Bless!