Diary of a Military Mother's Day
May 7, 2010
- "I figured that if I could send my baby boy into harm's way, I could send myself."
- A sense of pride in her son's love for his country was overshadowed by a fear of the unknown from a deployment.
- Because he was so naAfA-ve, gung-ho and ready to go do his job, I was scared for him because I better understood the reality of it all."
- For parents of deployed Soldiers, sending their children off to war can be as stressful and traumatic as the spouses and children.
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- In June 2009, Shelley Feltmeyer sent her son off to war.
Five months later, she sent herself.
"I figured that if I could send my baby boy into harm's way, I could send myself," Feltmeyer, deputy to the commander for the Army Materiel Command Logistics Support Element, United States Division-Center, stationed with the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade in Baghdad, said.
It came as no surprise to Feltmeyer when her son Spc. Paul Feltmeyer with the 203rd MP BN (Athens, Ala.) Army National Guard announced that he was following in her father's footsteps and enlisting. But a sense of pride in her son's love for his country was overshadowed by a fear of the unknown when Paul announced he was deploying to Basrah.
"I was not surprised given the current world situation," Feltmeyer said. "There was dread knowing that it was just a matter of time. The not knowing is what makes it difficult. Not knowing where he was going, not knowing what the climate (activities) was at the time, not knowing how he would be living, what he would be eating, the typical mom stuff. Is my baby boy going to be OK'"
That same fear came into Cynthia Headrick's heart when her son Pfc. Michael Moore, 19, a medic with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., announced he would be deploying to Afghanistan sometime this summer.
"I feel lost," Headrick said. "I feel helpless. I feel like it's completely out of my control. It's a complete unknown. As a mother, you want to know what he's going to be doing. I want a little piece of paper, like he used to give me for summer camp that says this is what he'll be doing and where he'll be. It's the mom in me wanting to know. But he's a grown man. That's something I have to deal with."
As a child, Moore drew his mother pictures of paratroopers jumping from helicopters, and as he grew older, became a fan of HBO's miniseries "Band of Brothers." Restless and discontented, at 17 he turned to the Army for focus and followed his dream of becoming a medic. Headrick keeps his letters from boot camp in a shoebox, and pictures of her oldest child in uniform close to her heart.
"I don't know what he's going to be exposed to," Headrick said of the upcoming deployment. "That's probably good. I shouldn't know. But I worry about him seeing so much at a young age."
While Headrick has yet to experience the last goodbye before her son's deployment, Feltmeyer remembers well the day her son left home and the searing effect it had on her maternal instinct.
"There are not words that can describe that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach," Feltmeyer said of her son's farewell. "The emotions were rampant. I had flashbacks to when he was a baby and a carefree young boy, with not a worry in the world. I was extremely proud of him, of his battle buddies. Because he was so naAfA-ve, gung-ho and ready to go do his job, I was scared for him because I better understood the reality of it all. The worst part for me was watching him walk away from me, heading for the plane - an indescribable feeling."
For parents of deployed Soldiers, sending their children off to war can be as stressful and traumatic, if not more so, as the husbands, wives and children that see their sweetheart or mom or dad deployed. Unfortunately, the resources available to parents are not nearly as plentiful as those for spouses and children. Few parents have access to post, and as in the case of the Headricks, many live hours away from their child's post.
"We're not in Kentucky," Headrick said. "We're here. I feel like there needs to be more support for parents."
Support in the Huntsville community specifically for parents is available, but is limited. Mayfair Church of Christ on Carl T. Jones Drive in Huntsville hosts a Military Outreach and Encouragement (M.O.R.E.) support group every Monday night from 7 to 9 p.m. for military families. The meeting includes prayer and activities designed to bring peace of mind to participants. Army Community Service also provides booklets to parents titled, "Your Soldier, Your Army: A Parents' Guide," that walks parents through the military lifestyle and deployment process. No specific program is in place on the Arsenal strictly for parents, but Hearts Apart coordinator Mary Breeden is available to connect parents with the resources they may need, regardless of where their Soldier may be located, or even the parents themselves.
"This is your baby that's going off to a place where you can't protect them," Breeden said. "We're very aware that it's not just your spouse and children. It's everybody that you're close to. We want to provide as much support as we can, and that may be just someone to talk to."
To Feltmeyer's advantage, she has worked with the Army for nearly 30 years, and her own deployment is only furthering the bond of understanding between mother and son. Together, Paul and Shelley serve their country, a mere 200 some miles apart.
"Working side-by-side with the Soldier has been an absolutely humbling experience for me," Feltmeyer said. "I have experienced the process and strategy on both sides of the table, and it has given me a greater understanding and perspective of the needs of the war fighter, and the urgency to support them and the cause at all costs.
"The fact that I have been here and know what it is like will help me to help him because I know it is going to take some time for readjustment when he returns. I watch these Soldiers every day, I know what they are experiencing - the highs and lows. I know their frustrations. And it goes without saying that we will be able to relate on all levels when we talk about our grand adventures here in Iraq."
Despite the sleepless nights and maternal worries, for the mothers of deployed Soldiers, nothing can get in the way of their pride for their babies.
"I am extremely proud of him and all of our men and women in uniform," Feltmeyer said. "It is a testament to their character. We live in a great nation - a free nation. We attribute that freedom to the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, past and present. There is no greater sacrifice. That in itself makes me so very proud of the man he has become."
If you are a parent or family member of a deployed Soldier looking for added support, or know someone who is, call Breeden at 876-5397 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.