Commentary by Senior Airmen Sheila deVera
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs 5/9/2011 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Being a single mother of three in the Air Force has taught me many things, but it took deploying to teach me the importance of Mother's Day.
Sometimes I struggle balancing my responsibilities as a mother and my commitment to my country, and ten months ago when I found out I would be deploying, the struggle reached an all-time high.
I called my parents the day I found out and let them know that I would be deploying just before Christmas. "What are you going to do with the boys?" my dad asked. This didn't settle in until I went home and saw--Brian, age 4, Daeshawn, age 3, and Jaiden, age 1--peeking through the window waiting for me to come through the door. I couldn't move, instead I sat in my car for a minute and looked at their faces.
This would not be the last time I was faced with tough questions. As months passed and my departure came closer I tried to explain where I was going and why I had to.
"Why mommy? Why are you leaving us? You don't love us anymore?" my four-year-old would ask.
I know my situation is not much different from any mother who is separated from her child, but hearing those words crushed my heart, and I fought to hold back my tears.
In between training, I juggled the role military parents act out each day. I made every point to make the most of the time I had left with them. Every weekend, we would go to the park or just hang out, but I still had the predeployment responsibilities as an Airman.
Two days before leaving for Combat Airman Skills Training in San Antonio, my boys watched me pack my clothes and go through the checklist of what I needed to bring.
I told them that the Air Force needed mommy's help to take pictures of deployed Airmen so their families back home could see what their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles do.
Little did I know until I got to Afghanistan and started unpacking my clothes, my eldest son was discreetly putting his clothes in my luggage.
November 27, 2010, was the day I said goodbye to my children at the airport. I knew I wasn't leaving them nearly as long as others who leave their children for a year at a time, but it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Luckily, I found solace in my coworkers and friends. Each assured me that my children would be well taken care of and that I just needed to get through the deployment.
Today, it has been five months, and it's almost time for me to return home. As months passed I marked off each holiday as it went by. Over the course of the deployment, I watched my boys open Christmas presents on a webcam, wished one a happy birthday over the phone and said I love you online many times.
As I marked off Mother's Day this year, I realized this deployment has given me an extra appreciation for the mothers around the world who are marking the days until they can be with their children again.
Remember that it does not take a deployment, war or a holiday to recognize mothers. There isn't a day mothers don't think about their children whom they've carried in their wombs for nine months-a bond that will never be broken.