In July of 1981, I gave birth to my son. He was my only child. Twenty-one years later, he joined the military. It was then that I realized that I had actually given birth to a Soldier.
The day he was sworn into the Army was the day I “officially” became the Mother of an American Hero. I wore that title with a great deal of pride, but I had no clue about the degree of anguish that title would bring into my life.
In March of 2003, the news stations were reporting that the Iraqi War had begun and that my son’s unit was heading to Baghdad. As I watched my only child cross over into Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It is so very hard to put into words the stress and agony that I, as a military mother, felt the day I was watching the news and saw history unfold live on TV. I watched as tanks and other military vehicles rolled through the Iraqi desert, knowing that my son was in one of them. The thought of my only child entering a combat zone was more than I could bear. Fear filled my entire soul. I remember crying so hard that I soaked the shirt I was wearing. I remember praying and praying and praying like I had never prayed before. I remember having to concentrate on my breathing, because I knew that if I was unable to get it under control, I would ultimately pass out. I remember coming to the realization that I was in a place where I could no longer keep him safe. As a mother, my heart ached.
I had been glued to the television for several hours, when my husband reminded me that our son was well trained, athletic and was doing what he wanted to do. His words brought me some comfort. Over the next few days, I decided that I had to figure out a way to deal with the strain of my son’s deployment in time of war so that this degree of worry and distress wouldn’t kill me. I had to find ways to keep my mind busy and myself occupied with something else other than watching 24/7 news coverage. Finding a way to ease my stress and to stay connected to my son was the path I was determined to follow.
The following are a few ideas of what worked for me and, hopefully, will work for other military mothers, as well:
Look for military support groups in your area. Shortly after the war began, my local newspaper ran an article about a few military mothers who were starting a support group in a neighboring town. I immediately contacted them. The emotional support received from these groups will be immeasurable. I can guarantee that although you first meet as strangers, you will later become friends and those friends will become family.
Look for online groups specific to your child’s specific branch of service and other mothers who wish to connect. When I searched for “Army Moms”, I found all kinds of groups that I could join for online support. I found prayer groups, moms that had an assortment of ideas on how to pack a care package and bake goodies to send, mothers that liked to sew military-related items and groups that would exchange addresses of their children so all of us could write to them. Every military mother needs another military mother to communicate with on a daily basis.
Go shopping for things you can wear or display on your vehicle and windows at home to show your pride in your child being an American Hero. One of the things I realized very early on was that when I wore Army Mom clothing, put a Proud Army Mom decal on my car window or hung a Blue Star Banner in the front window of my home, I was honoring my son’s service to this great Nation. Showing your pride in your child will bring honor to her or him and the many others that wear the uniform.
Write your child a letter! When you put pen to paper, you will find yourself writing from the heart. Talk to your child through your handwriting. You both will feel the connection. Not only will they enjoy getting a letter from home, but they will be thrilled at hearing their name called at Mail Call.
Pack a care package for your child! Taking a box and filling it up with your child’s favorite food items, candy, magazines, underwear (yes, I said underwear … it’s a mom thing) and letters from family members will make you feel closer to your child. And, while you’re at it, pack another box for one of their battle buddies.
Allow your family members, friends and neighbors to comfort you. I know, firsthand, how hard it is to tell people what you’re going through as a military mother. You have to remember that people who love you really do care about your emotional and physical well-being, so give them that opportunity. Allowing them to comfort you brings comfort back to them.
Get a hobby! I started scrapbooking and put a serious dent in our local craft store’s inventory. I made my son a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of the war, pictures he sent home, cut-outs of comments he made in his letters, all kinds of military stickers and anything else I could think of to go into his scrapbook. He loved his scrapbook and appreciated the time I put into making it for him.
And, last but not least, find your “happy place” and go there to relax. Mine was sitting in my backyard while looking into the woods, watching the wildlife and reading my devotionals. Others found comfort in going to church and having the entire congregation pray for their child. Several mothers I knew went to the spa to be pampered for a day. Do whatever you feel is needed to calm your nerves and lower your stress levels.
Please remember that our military mothers of yesterday had children who fought for the freedoms we celebrate today. Our military mothers of today have children that are serving so that we may continue to enjoy our freedoms for generations to come. The most precious of all military mothers are those whose children made the ultimate sacrifice and died for our freedom. They have experienced the pain of burying their own child; a degree of sorrow I hope never to feel.
In closing, I would like to thank the generations of military mothers that came before me and those that will follow. When we are given the title, “Mother of an American Hero”, we should hold our heads up high and remind ourselves that we, too, have served this country. This title is one that deserves tremendous love, respect and honor. May God bless the Mothers of American Heroes.
Chaplain “Mom Bev” Peyton
Beverly Kay (Bo-Kay) Peyton
Daughter of a WWII Army/Air Corp Veteran
Sister of an Army Veteran
Mother of an OIF Army Veteran
Mother-in-Law of an Army Veteran
Wife of 45 years
Grandmother of five
Mom Bev to thousands of troops and Veterans
Founder of Operation: Card Angels
Past President of the Blue Star Mothers of America, Miami Valley Chapter #3
Past Chaplain of Operation Thank You
Former Member of the Board of Directors for the Thank You Foundation (Ohio)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chaplain “Mom Bev” Peyton, has been supporting our American troops since 1975: sending cards, writing letters and sending care packages for over 46 years! One of the letters I wrote to a Soldier was shared and read to thousands of troops on Palm Sunday at the Embassy in Baghdad.
In 2002, my son enlisted in the Army and I then became the mother of an American Hero.
I am the founder of Operation: Card Angels in Kettering, Ohio. This is a card ministry group that sends words of encouragement to the troops, wounded heroes and Veterans. In addition, we support the USO’s around the world and Honor Flights across the country. We also make cards for the troops to send back home to their loved ones (i.e., happy birthday, miss you and holiday cards). I have volunteers all over America.
I am also one of the founding members and Past President of the Blue Star Mothers of America, Miami Valley Chapter #3, in Kettering, Ohio. Under my leadership, the local BSM chapter became the largest chapter in the Nation. While in this organization, I oversaw and presented Gold Star Banners to the mothers and families of fallen Heroes in my area.
Over the years, I have worked with top officials at the White House, the U.S. Senate and all ranks within the military. When President Bush was in office, he had a top advisor that would always take my phone calls. I have also worked with a Senator and filing four congressional investigations against one military base.
Other nonprofits often contact me to learn how to educate, motivate and delegate people to become involved in growing their businesses. I have hosted hundreds of care packing parties for the troops at corporations, churches, schools, scout groups, the Dayton VA and senior citizen centers. I have spent my life volunteering with Operation: Card Angels, Operation: Show Our Love, Operation Spirit 4 Troops, Operation Gratitude, Operation Write Home, Operation Thank You, Chaplain’s Wings, Pink Camo, Heads at Ease, Soldiers’ Angels, The Yellow Ribbon Support Center, Cards for Soldiers, Honor Flights across the country, Letters to Soldiers Club, Tell Them Thanks, Blue Star Mothers of America, the Thank You Foundation (Ohio) and Marine Comfort Quilts. I have also been an advocate for children with disabilities throughout the State of Ohio.
I was awarded the National Citation of Exceptional Service Award from the AUSA and the Army National Guard Team Total Victory medallion and pin for my volunteerism and service.
Combat Stress Magazine
Combat Stress magazine is written with our military Service Members, Veterans, first responders, and their families in mind. We want all of our members and guests to find contentment in their lives by learning about stress management and finding what works best for each of them. Stress is unavoidable and comes in many shapes and sizes. It can even be considered a part of who we are. Being in a state of peaceful happiness may seem like a lofty goal but harnessing your stress in a positive way makes it obtainable. Serving in the military or being a police officer, firefighter or paramedic brings unique challenges and some extraordinarily bad days. The American Institute of Stress is dedicated to helping you, our Heroes and their families, cope with and heal your mind and body from the stress associated with your careers and sacrifices.
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