This photo of my mother, sister and I was taken in Prince William Forest Park near one of our short-term homes in Northern Virginia in the early 1970s.
It was framed and sent as a gift to my father, who was in the middle of a 13-month Marine Corps deployment to the Western Pacific, one of many stints abroad during his long military career. Mailed photos were about as good it as got for military families back then, before the internet and easy, affordable long-distance phone service. (The military’s AUTOVON phone system of the era left a lot to be desired, and I remember some nearly incomprehensible conversations with my dad where signal lag and poor connections left us essentially shouting atop each other).
This particular deployment wasn’t the only time that my mom served as sole caregiver for long periods of time, as my dad’s career took him to Vietnam, Okinawa, Beirut, Oman and numerous other exotic destinations for long periods of time over the years. He missed my high school graduation, and he missed me being sworn in at Annapolis, as I began my own military career. That was hard on him, hard on me, and hard on my mom.
We were not alone in those experiences, of course. So I respectfully request that you reflect, for just a moment, on how many moms are celebrating Mother’s Day with their children today, while their parenting partners are busy serving abroad, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Korea, and on other bases and ships around the world. And reflect, too, on the moms who are marking Mother’s Day on those ships and bases themselves, without their children and other loved ones at their sides.
My sister and I were so very fortunate to be blessed with a strong, principled mother, who was able to raise us on her own for long periods of time, while my father provided for us and served our country, sometimes at home, and sometimes not. I salute all the moms of the world today, but extend special fondness and appreciation to those who have raised their children in military households, like the one I was raised in, and the one that my wife and I brought our own daughter into.
Marcia (who is also a former Naval Supply Corps Officer) and I never had to endure any long deployment separations, thankfully, but I can still tell you that moving coast-to-coast on military orders with a three-month old was no picnic for anyone. So happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and happy Mother’s Day, Marcia. I love you both dearly, and you did a great job raising your little ones under challenging circumstances!