Not just our sons and fathers

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
*This story is the first in a three-part series on deployments.

It's a walk that seems forever--the walk from the plane to loved ones when returning home from a deployment. The military member runs down the airport hall, turns the corner--and in this case sees her children. Those there for the return start clapping and tears fill the military member's eyes. Yet something is different; others at the airport seem puzzled and are staring, when other times those people may have joined in the applause.

It was a sight that some people may not have seen before even though there were clues that she was coming back from the war. The welcome home signs, the applause, the military bag she carried on her shoulders--but she was a woman and many usually see a man return. But both men and women serve in the United States Armed Forces and moms deploy too.

"Why are we crying mommie," said almost 3-year-old Aidan. "It's because I'm happy," said then Staff Sgt. Samantha Mouton as she hugged her son tightly after not seeing him for eight months.

Her 17-month-old daughter Aubree, whose first steps she only saw on video, was staring at her long and intently said Staff Sgt. Samantha Freeman. Aubree then said "Mommie?" and lifted her arms up. She wrapped them around her mom like a vise and wouldn't let go.

"I had to get my luggage and do other things while Aubree held on as tightly as she could," said Sergeant Freeman, who had been deployed to Afghanistan where she did base defense. "She didn't let go for a long time."

That was the summer of 2007 and the time to deploy may again be upon Sergeant Freeman this December; she is with the 354th Security Forces Squadron. She may miss Christmas and New Years, but the tears she had in her eyes when she relived what she called the happiest day of her life--the reunion with her children after a deployment, were gone. Instead her green eyes were clear and her gaze unwavering as she said that although she will miss her children, she is ready and willing to deploy.

"This is my job; I signed up to do what my country asks of me and that includes going downrange," she said.

Knowing that someone else has to take care of her children is something that is not easy, the maternal bond can't be duplicated, said Sergeant Freeman, but she added that when the time comes she'll go proudly just as she did before.

"I'll miss my children--they're everything to me, but at the same time when you deploy you get to be with your other family," she said. "Nothing compares to how you are willing to fight to the death for them."

Master Sgt. Tracy Francis, a 354th Fighter Wing Safety Office Airman, is another mom who has deployed, and some of her words ring similar to Sergeant Freeman's.

She said that deploying is part of her job and said she feels strongly about doing what she signed up to do.

"I know a lot of people who think of the benefits when they join the military--education, travel, a steady paycheck, but what we forget is that the main purpose of a military is to protect the country, to fight war."

Sergeant Francis, mother to 14-year old daughter Courtney, said that she doesn't expect special treatment because of her single mom status and feels that if you signed on the dotted line then it's your duty.

Her deployment occurred in 2001 where she had been attached to an Office of Special Investigations unit in Kuwait. There were a number of things she did to try to make things easier for her and her daughter during their separation.

"Communication is key," said Sergeant Francis.

Postcards, letters and phone calls were some of the ways Sergeant Francis and Courtney kept in touch, and when she returned they developed the film from a camera she had bought her daughter prior to leaving. They then went over the things her daughter had done in her mom's absence.

Sergeant Freeman communicated through videotapes she made for her children while she was deployed, but feels it would have been easier if she would have made the videos prior to leaving.

She also had pictures of herself laminated which her mom, who watched her children during the deployment, showed to the kids everyday.

"At the age they were, there was a fear that they wouldn't know me when I returned," she said.

Knowing what things and programs there are to provide help prior to deploying is important too, said Sergeant Francis, but what it boils down to is having a plan and tailoring that plan to your individual family's needs.

Part of Sergeant Freeman's plan for the next time--"I want to make scrapbooks of things my children and I have done together, that way when I'm gone they can be read not just a story, but our story."