Earning the titles of veteran and mother came to me completely different than I imagined they would.
I envisioned fulfilling my initial six-year military commitment and then hanging up my uniform for good. I dreamed of being married by 25 with a house, a dog, a white picket fence, and babies.
Life had other plans.
Three days after my 18th birthday, and nine months before 9/11, I joined the Army National Guard for college money and the hopes of traveling the world. Never in a million years did I think I would deploy twice in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Some of my experiences left me with crippling anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and more. All of my experiences afforded me the opportunity to discover what I am most proud of: my fierce determination to not just survive, but to live.
At 16 years old, I became a birth mother to a beautiful baby girl. I carefully chose the couple that I wanted to be her parents and give her the life she deserved; the life I couldn’t give her at the time. I have been able to watch her grow over the years into an amazing, kind, smart, stunning young woman, and have a relationship with her that I never dreamed possible. And thanks to her wonderful parents, I’ve always felt loved and celebrated as her birth mom. She is one of my life’s greatest gifts; she made me a mother.
Today, at 34, I am a mama to a beautiful baby boy. His smile and little personality melt my heart by the minute. He is my best little dude. His birth mother and father courageously chose my husband and me to give him the life they felt he deserved. I strive everyday to give him that life. There are no words to properly express my gratitude for them, and for my son; they made me a mama.
Earning the titles of veteran and mother have both been met with deep heartache and pain, confusion, sadness, trauma, joy, love, compassion, support, tragedy, sacrifice, happiness, and acceptance. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a single thing. It is the greatest honor of my life to be a veteran and a mother.
To the mamas out there who have served and are still serving, Happy Mother’s Day to you from the bottom of my heart.
Learn more about IAVA’s campaign to recognize and improve service for women veterans at www.SheWhoBorneTheBattle.org