It Takes a Tough Mom to Raise a Soldier

Heather Murphy-Raines

My Then Baby Boy Dressing Up Like His Daddy
Sergeant 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry is the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Iraq and Afghan wars. His story is the stuff of legends and epic movies. Shot in both legs, he seized an enemy grenade to save fellow rangers in harm's way. Having lost his right hand, he applied a tourniquet, and continued to give out orders. 

Having proudly served my country in the reserves, with a husband who also served active duty attached to a field infantry unit in the Sinai, my heart bursts at such valor in such an exemplary soldier.

As a former soldier, I feel extreme gratitude for his service and sacrifice, but as a mother, one of my biggest fears would be if my own sons and daughter were to ever be called upon to make a similar sacrifice

Call me a hypocrite, but how do military moms do it? 

I had no problems signing that dotted line as a young woman. It was harder marrying an active duty man whom I loved, knowing he could one day face combat. Even more difficult was being left behind as my husband was deployed in the Middle East for six months to the Sinai Peninsula, just when Osama Bin Laden started his evil by bombing nearby American embassies in the '90s. It was wretched while I stayed behind with a toddler in subzero Fairbanks, Alaska, but I endured. I knew the deal when I married him.

Yet the thought of my babies being in harm's way slays me. 

This is awful, I know, but I have told them it would absolutely kill me if they joined the military. Worse? As my teen son plays Call of Duty on Xbox, I suggest that choosing a nice desk jockey job in the Air Force might be acceptable to this poor mother's heart. His father and I agree he would not last long -- or at least that is my excuse.

As an aside, I also would not let my kids finish walking across the Golden Gate Bridge because I had an anxiety attack they would fall through the infinitesimal cracks between the railings. We turned back as I hyperventilated. I have repelled off six-story buildings, fearlessly, but the thought of my babies getting too close to the second story railing at the mall gives me a heart attack. Have I mentioned they are tweens/teens and I still have a heart attack? Seriously, ALL my nightmares revolve around my children being lost, hurt, or missing. We swim competitively because I used to fear if we went down in an airplane into an ocean, I would never be able to save all three.

I know these are irrational mother's fears, but I think that mothers are genetically pre-programmed to worry like this.

So as I watched President Obama award SFC Petry his medal, my thoughts wander to wondering how SFC Petry's mom feels? How did she get past the fear of her baby getting hurt? Or did she? I wonder if she urged him to choose a less dangerous profession. Or did she feel the call of duty to let her child serve his country as he saw fit, no matter the cost?

At the presentation this week, Petry urged Americans to keep service members in their thoughts. "The greatest reward any service member can get is a simple 'thank you,'" he said.

I absolutely agree. It is nice being thanked for one's service on veterans' days and 4th of July holidays. In today's climate, I feel very unworthy having served in peace time. I know many who have readily endured far greater sacrifice. These wars have taken their toll with soldiers deployed three and four times.

However, when is the last time you thanked the families and specifically the mothers of those soldiers who also sacrifice? Their fears and night terrors of having their babies in harm's way must be unbearable.

So to all you mamas of military men and women out there?

Thank You.

Read More