I remember standing on that stage, my fellow officers beside me. And while I can’t remember what was said at that moment, I’ll never forget the well-spring of emotions bubbling inside of me.
Some minutes before, I raised my right hand and promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and the smile stretched across my face as I uttered, “So help me God.” The captain commented on how smiley I had gotten at the end, and the audience chuckled. And now standing there in the row, knowing that I had changed the course of my life by taking that vow, I felt a pride that I rarely feel for myself.
I was joining the ranks of those who sacrifice for their country every day. My dresses and skirts were now replaced with a blue uniform, my jeans with camouflage, and the career with discipline at its core was now mine to embrace.
And I was brought back to this moment when she called my name. Something in her voice as she called, “Mommy,” the desperate need for me to hold her, to comfort her as the doctor squeezed her arm.
Standing on that stage together, we all heard the little baby cry, “Mommy!” as she saw clearly her mother on that stage, the woman who was my roommate for the last twelve weeks. And all of the emotion I had suppressed gushed out of my eyes. The three months of stress I harbored as I worked under the watchful eyes of those wanting to catch us in a mistake, the three months of sleeping in my single bed instead of the arms of my husband, the three months of having to earn any freedom I had instead of deciding my own liberties–that three months of tension burst out from me.
I looked out and saw my own mother in the crowd, a veteran before me, and our tear-filled eyes connected. I cried like an idiot because I heard the word, “Mommy” and knew the tears that that mommy had shed; I cried because I couldn’t stop.
And as I held my own daughter yesterday, I remembered that officer who went months without holding hers. I thought of those who have gone years.
Before I joined the military, I knew this career would be a ‘before children’ career. I was willing to sacrifice for my country, even my life, but not them.
I held my daughter close yesterday and, with gratitude, thought of my fellow officer, my former roommate, and the sacrifices she had to make. The sacrifice that I couldn’t.