50: Comrades in Moms

50: Comrades in Moms

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Comrades in Moms

Friends are like walls. Sometimes you lean on them, and sometimes it’s good just knowing they are there.

~Author Unknown

The earth shifted under my feet when my son Ty telephoned. “Hi Mom, I just enlisted,” he said.

In the following months I felt ignorant in my new role as a home-front mom. I also felt isolated and irrelevant. I didn’t know other mothers with children in the military nor did I know where to find them.

Later, my world shook again when Ty called and said, “Hi Mom. I just got orders. I’m deploying to the Middle East.”

My emotions seesawed. One moment I felt ready to explode from swirling, nervous energy. The next moment I felt like a weight on my chest made it hard for me to breathe.

The morning Ty boarded a plane on the other side of the country to deploy halfway around the world I drove to work under icy-blue skies. I gritted my teeth and held my emotions in check until a song on the radio undid me. When I arrived at work, I wiped my tears, called the Christian station, and asked for prayers for my son.

The DJ had sons in the service. “Have you heard about the Blue Star Mothers?” he asked.

“I haven’t.”

“It’s a group of moms with sons and daughters in the military. The local chapter meets upstairs in our office building. They’re packing care boxes for the troops this Saturday.”

I didn’t have anyone to go with and when I arrived I didn’t know anyone at the packing party. A gal with an in-charge attitude walked past me and pointed to a desk. “We need you over there.”

Like a good soldier, I reported to my assigned station where I shared the desk with another mom. We hand-addressed stacks of postal shipping labels while being careful to write legibly and also pressing hard enough to make all five copies readable.

I glanced up from my work from time to time and flexed my cramped hand. The area resembled Santa’s workshop, peopled with moms instead of elves. In several rooms women chatted while sorting donated items into blue plastic tubs. Others moved bins filled with granola bars, beef jerky, crackers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, white tube socks, and paperback books to a large room where long tables formed a packing assembly line.

In another room, laughter mingled with rip-rip-ripping sounds as women applied strapping tape to the bottom seams of priority mailboxes. Other moms carried the boxes to the assembly line, where they filled them to the brim, then brought them back to be strapped shut.

I would never have had an occasion or opportunity to meet these wildly diverse women elsewhere. Over time I found the differences that can divide people didn’t matter to us. Instead, a common denominator — love for our children — united us.

I joined forces with these women with a renewed sense of purpose. I no longer felt as ignorant, isolated, or useless as a home-front mom.

Strangers became acquaintances and many became stalwart friends: Jan, Myra, Nina, Carolyn… and the list goes on. We’ve worked hard, played hard, and prayed hard together.

My new friends helped me through Ty’s first deployment. When I hadn’t heard from my son for longer than I wanted, Jan said, “No news is good news and bad news travels fast.” Although I wanted to hear from Ty, I decided I’d rather have no news than bad news.

Because these moms and I developed strong friendships I could rejoice with Carolyn when her son came home from a deployment, although that day I felt weepy because my son was still overseas and would be for months.

Right before Ty returned from his first deployment I felt giddy at the prospect of giving him a hug. I e-mailed him: “Do you want me to meet you at your homecoming on post?”

He didn’t. His reasons were valid but I still would have felt hurt if I hadn’t spent time around my new friends. “He might need some breathing space,” Myra said. “Give him a little time.”

I gave him time to get his house in order. A few months later I gave him a hug. My relationship with my son is stronger because I took Myra’s advice.

The next year I got another one of those calls that tips a mother’s world on edge: “Hi Mom, I’m going back to the Middle East.”

I felt more apprehensive than before Ty’s first deployment.

Jan didn’t hesitate when I mentioned my son’s departure date from a distant airport. “That day, why don’t you attend a welcome home at the airport here?” she said.

I’m glad I joined the crowd greeting a returning soldier, a stranger to me. Standing in a long cordon of flag bearers just outside the airport security area, I held the Blue Star Mothers’ banner upright.

When a young soldier came through the security gate, he paused a moment and looked surprised that we all were there to celebrate his homecoming.

Along with other civilians, I smiled, cried, and cheered when I saw the wide grin on his face. Jan was right. Welcoming home some other mom’s returning son prevented me from holding a pity party the day Ty deployed.

I tried to be brave, I really did, but six months later I whined to Jan about Ty being overseas. She didn’t judge me. Instead she listened, then gave me a gift of grace, a sisterly hug, which I needed at that moment. She has two military sons and knew I was exhausted from holding my emotional breath for the duration of each deployment. That day I learned from my friend to give other home-front moms hugs when I see a scared look in their eyes. We recognize another’s fear because we’ve seen it often enough in the mirror.

Jan also provided relentless encouragement — she calls it nagging — for me to get a passport.

“I don’t want to even think about it,” I said.

“Just consider it insurance,” she said. “If Ty is injured and sent to a military hospital in Europe you don’t want any delays getting there.”

Neither of us voiced the obvious worst-case scenario.

“If you’re faced with a situation when every minute counts getting to Ty’s bedside,” she said, “you’ll be thankful you already have a passport. I’m not saying you’ll need it. But if you do, you’ll have it.”

Thanks to Jan’s persistence, I’ve tucked my new passport into a safe place with my other insurance papers.

My new friends invited me to be part of something bigger than myself. I birthed only one child, but we home-front moms share a heritage of adopting all our troops into our hearts.

Because of the examples set by my new friends I’ve written condolence notes to parents I’ve never met who have lost children I’ll never know. I’ve sat beside Nina and other moms dressed in navy-blue suits as we filled rows of pews in candle-lit churches. We attend these memorial services to honor those who have died while serving our country and to pay our solemn respects to their families.

I’ve heard that troops forge strong bonds of friendship while battling through hell together, fighting side by side and protecting one another’s backs.

So do their moms.

~Linda Jewell

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners