A nearly 20 hour commute. Months (not weeks, or days, or hours) away from home. Desperate to hear your child’s laughter, babbling, crying, whining, anything…not desperate to escape for a few hours.
This is the reality for Tashina Miller, a medical service corps officer, serving as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at a small Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan. She serves a vitally important role on the Combat Stress Control Prevention team, providing counseling, education, traumatic events management, united needs assessments, and prevention classes to service members and their commands.
Tashina is also a mother. Her son Cooper is 16 months old and her affection for him permeates her correspondence with me. “(Becoming a mother) really does change your entire life, a change I would never take back. I guess the thing I love the most is; the way your child can just look at you and nothing else matters.”
Her story is hard to tell without tearing up. And they’re not necessarily sad tears, but happy, proud and patriotic ones. She is not only supporting her own son, but her work supports sons and daughters of other caring mothers who worry about their child being off at war. She’s good at both of her jobs.
“What I love the most about my job is being able to assist those heroes who have raised their right hand to defend their country. I admire their sacrifice to their country and believe they deserve the best services possible.” She also maintains her sense of humor, adding, “Not having to decide what to wear every morning is also a bonus; you
just put the uniform on and go.”
Tashina didn’t necessarily know motherhood was in her future when she enlisted in 2008. “It was a conscious choice to have a child knowing someday I might have to leave. I looked at all these male soldiers and they leave their children all the time. I thought, what should make me any different?”
Her limited time with her son means that every moment matters when they’re together. “From the moment my son came into the world I tried not to take any time with him for granted. I am sure all parents feel this way to a point; however, it seemed like a real focus due to my situation. I hope someday my son will be able to understand why I had to go away and be proud of the work I have done. I tell people I would never choose to be away from my son; unfortunately, the very important work I must do often takes me away from him.”
Although my heart swells with pride for her and her mission, it also breaks. While I’m bemoaning having to hear my toddler ask for “Fresh Beat Band” for the 20th time today, she’d probably give anything to cuddle on the couch and watch anything 20 times in a row with her son. She won’t see her son in person until February 2013. Just one day away from my girls and I can’t wait to put my arms around them. I can’t imagine she’ll let her son down those first few days after she comes home.
While most of us “civilian” moms wrestle with the issues surrounding the “Mommy Wars,” she’s actually been at war. A real one. In another country. Far, far from home.
So how does she manage? “Juggling relationships and work gets difficult; not only as a mother but a wife. Again, I keep in mind to take nothing for granted. My husband posts thousands of pictures on Facebook. We Skype two to three times a day (when the internet is working). My son gives me kisses over Skype and sometimes hands me toys and food. My husband often follows him around with the computer while he plays. I have mementos and pictures I brought with me. Before I left home I read and recorded books for my son and hung pictures up of the two of us.”
And like any deployed father relies on his spouse back home, Tashina fully appreciates the load her husband bears. “There are no words to describe how supportive and completely awesome my husband is. He is very proud of the work I do. He doesn’t like the separation and wishes I was home but, knows how important my work is.”
Deployed moms are somewhat of an enigma. Rarely mentioned and often misunderstood. “We are like any other moms making sacrifices for our children and country to give those we love the best life possible.” While she may be like other moms, she certainly isn’t ordinary, but extraordinary.
She wants to share this advice with other moms in her shoes (or boots, rather). “You and your children can survive a deployment and maintain a good relationship. Military children are some of the most resilient children I have ever met. As a mom, you think leaving is going to kill you but I am still alive. Being away makes me focus on the little things I can do for my son and husband.”
Tashina, from me and so many others, thank you. Thank you for serving not only our country in such an important way, but for being such an amazing mother, raising a brave new generation of children. You are not only your son’s hero, but mine, too.
Momazing Mondays: I’ve decided to put my creative skills to use and tell the stories of mothers who are truly unique, inspirational and amazing. If I have enough stories, I’d like to post one at the beginning of every week. Please send me an email at catherine DOT poland AT gmail DOT com if you know of a momazing mother. Read last week’s story “Momazing Monday: Mother of Nine Proves Quantity and Quality are Possible.“