Remember when kids play the dozens and talk about about “yo momma” on the play ground. I always took great delight when someone said, “Yo momma wears combat boots,” and I could look them dead in the eyes and say, “So, my momma does wear combat boots.” I took pride in her service in the Army. It was a badge of honor.
When I was 2 1/2, my parents divorced. I don’t remember my dad being part of my life until much later. I am never sure of the exact moment she decided but my mom joined the military in September of 1976. My first memory of military life was trekking up the hill to the hospital at Fort Bliss. I was sick and had to be seen at the ER with my mom by my side.
A few weeks later, I came home for base preschool, and as I marched through our apartment, I said with perfect preschool cadence “Hut Two Three Four. ” My mom’s reaction was priceless. She said “What did I do to you?” It was her only outward expression that she was not sure that her military service wasn’t the best decision she ever made.
My mother was an Army nurse. As she moved from station to station, my mother’s career blossomed. From the Burn Unit at Fort Sam Houston, to a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at Fort Ord and finally her impressive work with Medical Research Fellowship program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Her dedication to the people who served with her always left an impression. Her patients would tell me all the time how dedicated she was to them and how much she loved me. But what I remember most is the patient who told me that my mother saved their life. My mother had served as this soldier’s therapist. It was amazing to hear someone confirm what you already knew; mom was a life saver.
My favorite memory of my mom’s military life was the three years she spent at University of California at San Francisco working on her doctorate in Nursing Science. Those were my favorite years because, even though it was probably the hardest work she’d ever done in her life; she was present more than most of her career. I was finally old enough to “help” her achieve her goals. As she worked on her dissertation, she’s ask me to read a paragraph or two and “edit”. I suspect she wanted to encourage my love of the written word. Most importantly, I will remember it as the time my mom and I had a graduation at the same time; me, with a high school diploma and she with her doctorate.
My mother is my veteran and my hero. I thank her so much for her service. Not only because she served her country but because she broadened my world. She taught me how to sacrifice for the right reasons. She taught me to take bold leaps of faith that can pay off dividends. She provided me with the best home. But most of all, her service in the military addressed the needs of the military community at large.