A military mom’s pilgrimage
By Carol Idso Eling
As I sit at my kitchen counter collecting my thoughts, I try to focus on positive things to distract myself from worries. But the heaviness in my chest and the hollowness in my gut overwhelm me. I need my son home, in Milwaukee with his wife and dog. This is his last deployment, at least it is what I am told. I tire of self-challenges, immersing myself in new exercise routines, or keeping busy to prevent myself from getting too anxious about my son’s deployments. Most days I do really well, but today is different. Today I feel like crying.
He has been deployed five times to various war zones or adjacent areas. Each time he announces his deployment, my heart stops, and I take a deep breath. My shoulders and head drop in a praying pose and, all is quiet. He fills the silence with words of comfort and excitement, speaking about the opportunity to put his long hours of training to good use. Since 2008, he has served as a navigator on C-130 planes, and he loves his job. Flying is his passion. He is married to an extraordinary woman who has been by his side since day one. She is an indescribable support for him and me.
On his first deployment to Iraq, I excitedly communicated with him using Skype. But it wasn’t what I expected. My calm solid son was thin, twitchy, and dark circles lined his eyes. Our conversation was frequently interrupted by sirens and warnings of incoming insurgents. Due to the poor connection, there were several times my computer screen froze and his unfamiliar expression, with his dull eyes, burned in my mind. In one of our conversations, we talked about sleep and, I found out he was taking Ambien. Before this, he never had a problem with sleep. We skyped only a few times since then on following deployments since it was too disturbing for me. I began to send more cards and letters with an inspiring quote or bible verse of strength, courage, hope, love, and endurance. My worry grew to greater intensity, and I sought out my doctors‘ advice. I began reaching out to girlfriends, my bible study group, and coworkers. At work, I put up a picture of my son in the break room, and then another child’s picture soon followed. Not much was discussed or talked about, but I felt the quiet support from the people around me. I remember calling a girlfriend at a time of intense worry, and her husband answered the phone. I immediately began to cry, sobbing out words of being worried about my son, while he attempted to say his wife wasn’t home. This burly hunting type man eventually gave up and said over and over, “I know, I know, it is so hard, so hard” in a deep quiet soothing voice. His wife, my friend, never made it home during our phone call. We have never discussed the phone call, but he was an instrument of God that day.
I have a few treasured letters, four Christmas cards, and one birthday card from him while overseas. I learned he is very busy working while deployed. I have sent him several care packages of his favorite homemade goodies: Starbucks coffee via packets, a few books, and mostly useful edible items. After the first over stuffed package, he told me packaged food and tangible items are best. Christmas and birthday gifts can wait until he is home. I even sent him honey crisp apples once.
Now we are able to FaceTime, which is a treat for me. FaceTime is much less disturbing since he can contact me in a private quiet area. Recently, he called me on his birthday using FaceTime. Tears filled my eyes as I held his beautiful face in my hand, just like I did 29 years ago. When I reminded him of his first birthday and the “face time” we had back then, he laughed and I treasured the sound.
His active duty service is scheduled to end late September of this year. The last seven years has been an incredible journey of hope and resilience. Even more so, a pilgrimage for me to finally let go of my son and to be able to see him as an adult married man who has served his country as a Captain in the United States Air Force. I am proud and thankful for him.
If you are a military mom of an active duty deployed child, I salute you. We are a part of history not written or often talked about. No words can describe the endless depths of a mother’s love or the unshakable courage a mother carries for her child.
A military mom’s pilgrimage
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by Digital Edge