My daughter is a thrill junkie. She was a shy child and a reserved teenager with a dry sense of humor like her father. Although thoughtful and deliberate as an adult, she inherited her father’s calm ability to dance on the edge of danger. She is a distance runner, a baker, a problem solver, and a military police officer in the United States Army. My daughter is a warrior. This tall, lanky young woman of thirty, who lives by the principals of duty, honor and country, would rather hump 60 pounds of gear around Afghanistan than be “bored” guarding an American Army training post. Thus, after a brief leave at home I did the “good-bye” trip to Logan Airport, again, to send her onto her third deployment to the Middle East.
How does a mother send her daughter to war? I picture her in a smocked dress and patent leather shoes, dragging her stuffed friend, “Doggie” behind her. It is startling to see photos of her in ACUs (camouflage uniform) and desert combat boots, toting an M-4 rifle. We raise our daughters to be independent and self-sufficient. We encourage them to pursue their dreams, to become doctors and business owners, pilots and scientists but we never imagine they will choose a life of rushing into harm’s way.
My daughter has sacrificed much to pursue a career as a soldier. She has missed attending the weddings of her best friends, joining classmates at reunions, celebrating holidays with her family, even dressing up and going out on a Saturday night. Instead, she has worked with the Iraqi police in Baghdad and insured the safety of churches in Mosul. Saturday night is just another stretch of military police action in a foreign land.
I have not mastered the role of mother of a soldier in a time of war but I have come to rely on several virtues to manage the stress. I have learned to be patient with those who don’t understand that political views have nothing to do with supporting a child in a war zone. I have learned to quietly persevere through the constant worry that grinds me down. I have learned to cherish hope for her safe return that is buoyed by her infrequent calls and e-mails. I have learned to find joy in baking cookies and shipping them to her week after week.
I hang the blue star banner on my front door – the same one my mother-in-law hung when my husband went to Vietnam- in recognition of her combat service. I light the candle in the upstairs window that will burn continuously as the outward sign of my silent but anxious vigil. I wear a small blue star pin on my lapel to honor her faithfulness to duty. Mary worried about Jesus on his mission but willingly took each day as it came, even when it meant helplessly watching her beloved son die. I, too, will treasure all the things my daughter is in my heart (Luke 2:51b).
The only thrill for me, however, will be meeting my daughter at Logan Airport a year from now.
*Special thanks to Ann Marie Mahoney for her submission, her courage and her continued hope. To submit an entry, please email firstname.lastname@example.org