46: An American Mother

46: An American Mother

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

An American Mother

Military parents have the Honor of loving a hero, the Courage to let them go, and the Commitment to Support them.

~Author Unknown

I thought I knew what it meant to be an American, what it felt like to be proud of this country and those who serve and have served in its armed forces. Silly me, I thought it was the goose bumps I got when I heard the national anthem or the comfort I felt when crossing paths with a soldier or a sailor.

The truth is I didn’t know what it meant — not really. It wasn’t until my firstborn son voluntarily joined the United States Navy in 2013 and was deployed to the North Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea aboard a guided-missile cruiser in 2014 that I truly appreciated what it meant to be an American, not to mention what it meant to be a mother.

It meant sacrifice in the highest form.

I remember the day I saw my son’s ship steaming into the fray on CNN, one of the first ships to be sent to the front lines. I had never been more proud or more frightened. I was torn between the two heaping emotions, so much so that I could hardly breathe! The little boy with big, green eyes who I tucked into bed every night, the same boy who was afraid of fireworks on the Fourth of July, was headed into harm’s way for the sake of his country, for the sake of something much bigger than himself. Not once did he hesitate or show fear in the face of danger. And so his bravery became mine.

Like the day he was born, I will never forget the moment I held him in my arms after he returned from serving nine months overseas. Nor will I forget the handsome, young man sporting a United States Navy uniform, my “little boy” with the big green eyes, getting down on one knee in that same airport terminal and proposing to the woman he loved. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, as both an American and a mother.

Now when I hear the national anthem or I cross paths with a soldier or a sailor, I feel deep in my bones what it means to be an American and a mother. I know how it feels to love your country and your son so much that you would bravely, and without reserve, watch the one you once guarded with your life steam into the fray for the sake of something much bigger than himself. That is the truest spirit of America… and motherhood.

~Natalie June Reilly

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