Retired Marine enjoys being mom
May 8, 2013
Those who know her may call her "Super Mom," but Nicole Boone knows the real reason behind her seven happy and healthy children has nothing to do with her.
It's all thanks to God.
"It's not me," Boone said. "I won't take His glory."
And just as sure as Boone takes "word breaks" with her Bible instead of lunch breaks in her job as a small business specialist for the Engineering and Support Center-Huntsville, she knows that while today she walks side by side with her Lord, there were moments throughout her life when He carried her.
The daughter of an only child and an only child herself, Boone's growing up years in Philadelphia were markedly lonely. Raised by her grandmother, while she was allowed to go to school and church, and occasionally play with other children in the neighborhood, once the sun went down it was just Boone and Mama. Turning to classical music, Boone would play her cello and read, but still longed for companionship.
Boone eventually found it, but in all the wrong places. Despite her missteps, on Sept. 8, 1987, Boone became what she was always meant to be -- a mother -- when her firstborn son Thomas was born. But tragedy struck on Aug. 22, 1989, a mere two weeks before his second birthday, when her baby boy was murdered, beaten to death by her boyfriend.
Grieving and with nowhere else to turn, she decided to enlist in the Army, but was told it would be about another year before she would leave for basic, a lifetime for Boone, who just needed to hit the reset button on her life. Biding her time, Boone was on her way to class at Temple University when she saw a rather striking man in a Marine Corps uniform on Broad Street. When he asked her, "What if I told you I could have you on a plane to Parris Island next week?" the only thing Boone needed to know was, "Where do I sign?"
The very next week the girl who had never been on an airplane or left Philadelphia was a Marine.
"I was going through some changes and I needed to leave the city," Boone said. "When my first child was killed I hadn't even heard of the Marine Corps. I just had to get out of the city. We didn't have any money. I didn't have any other family. I just had to get my mind clear and start my life over."
Boone did exactly that, beginning a career that would span 22 years, take her around the world and introduce her to the man she would marry. But even though she had a fresh start in life, something was missing, a hole that had taken hold of her heart when Thomas had died. So Boone prayed to God that she would one day become a mother again. God didn't just answer her prayers -- He poured out His blessings in abundance.
First came Danuelle, now 21, then Jazmyn, 19; Tony, 18; Nicole, 15; Michael, 12; Aaron, 10; and last but not least, David, 6. From Okinawa, Japan to Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Quantico, Va.; Albany, Ga. to 29 Palms, Calif., for practically every duty station Boone and her family were sent to, she had a child. At one point Boone recalls having a toddler, a baby in a stroller and a baby in her belly.
"I wanted a big family," Boone said. "I would never let the Marine Corps or my career get in the way of my family, and I didn't. Only by the grace of God was I able to pull it off. The Lord had His hand on my life and my career."
That didn't mean, however, that there weren't challenges along the way. While married, Boone's then-husband was often absent, leaving her to care for the children by herself, all while trying to make ends meet and answer the demands of the Marine Corps. There were days when she had to decide whether or not she would pay the car note or get food; times when she would have to explain to her children that she couldn't attend a school program because duty called.
"The greatest challenge was just the balance of time because you have to wear all those hats," Boone said. "You can't do 50 things well. You may be able to do 50 things OK. You may be able to get it done, but you won't be able to do them all well. I knew I had to make the Marine Corps work. I had to. There was nothing back in Philly. I was raised in poverty. I had to make it work, so I can honestly say that there were times when I had to choose between doing something with the kids or doing what I could for my career, because I always knew if I could just do the 20, if I could punch it out and do it we would be OK. I thank God that now I'm reaping the benefits of that."
Boone will never forget the day she broke down as a corporal when she found out she had missed Michael's first words at daycare.
"You can't get that back," Boone said. "That's my greatest regret. A lot of what I missed I can't get back. You can't redeem time."
What time they did have together however Boone maximized to its fullness. If she got off work early, instead of leaving the kids at daycare to go do something for herself she would pick them up, so the family could do something together. And while they may not have had a lot of money, the family often went on what Boone calls "mini vays" -- a day at a Smithsonian museum and a picnic lunch, a weekend away at a hotel with a pool, or the occasional big splurge, like the family's trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"Although I wasn't always there for a lot, they still have good memories of the stuff that we did," Boone said.
Through her example and with the help of the military lifestyle Boone was able to instill core values in her children, such as commitment, responsibility and flexibility. When the older children were able to, they helped out, getting the younger ones off to school when mom was away or cooking meals. With their mom they have seen the world and served their country, and today it shows.
"It's given them an independence that you won't see in children their age," Boone said. "My 21-year-old, she was kind of the second mama in the house. That girl can fry chicken better than me. The older ones missed a lot of their own stuff because I had to go. I really needed them."
Boone always prayed that she'd be able to do 20 years in the Marine Corps, but she actually got 22 instead, retiring as a gunnery sergeant in 2012. As she's taken off the uniform, her life as a mom has transformed.
"I don't have the weight of that hat," Boone said. "I've been able to take that hat off now so I can dedicate more time as a mother. The younger ones are getting a different mother than the older ones had."
Not only are they getting more time with mom, who loves to pack up the kids and take them to Big Spring Park, Bridge Street and the Madison YMCA, but they're also getting some added perks as well now that Boone is in a more financially stable position.
"There's a strength that comes with struggle that the younger ones don't know," Boone said. "I'm really having to practice some restraint with what I give them so they wind up with some of the same character that I see in my elder ones."
Of all the lessons she hopes to pass on to her children, faith, she said, is the most important.
"I always tell my kids, 'Keep God first,'" Boone said. "Keep God first. If I die tonight, I would want them to remember that. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I don't care where life takes you, take Him with you. Keep Him first."
That lesson starts with her own example, which isn't hard for Boone who permeates faith in all that she does.
"God really kept me," Boone said. "The Lord was the only constant in my life. He was also the constant denominator throughout my entire 22-year military career. There were struggles we went through, but the Lord was the sustaining force that allowed me to stand."
Editor's note: Sunday will be Mother's Day.