Six hundred women, many unknowingly, competed recently for a motherhood award, and one woman at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, shined so brightly that she was chosen as one of the 20 semi-finalists.

Sgt. Sophia I. Malone, a human resource technician in G-1, is a semi-finalist in Operation Homefront/Lockheed Martin's 2010 Military Motherhood Award.

"I am a Soldier, a daughter, a sister, a friend... but most of all, I am a mom," said Malone, who has three children: twins, Lacy and Lexy, 15, and Edwin "EZ" Zane, 11. "So this has to be the most amazing honor I could possibly receive."

Malone, 39, was nominated for the award by Kari Hawkins, a Redstone Rocket reporter at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. Hawkins interviewed and wrote a feature story about Malone in January.

"Sergeant Malone's story is so compelling," Hawkins said. "As a mom, she has made so many sacrifices to serve her country. Being a mom in uniform requires strength of character and a high level of conviction that is very unique to female Soldiers."

Malone joined the Army in 1990 and served a tour of duty during the Persian Gulf War. She left active duty after four years to get married and raise a family, but began considering serving again after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I debated for a year about rejoining the military," Malone said. "But I was a mom, which was my first priority. What could I do'"

Rejoin, of course. Only this time, Malone chose the National Guard expecting a part-time experience. She has been on active duty since 2005, sustaining injuries in two different incidents from improvised explosive devices - in November 2006 and August 2007. After her injuries, she returned stateside and worked as an instructor.

"I don't regret any minute," Malone said. "As an instructor, it really hit me - I helped prepare young Soldiers to perform the very missions I performed in theater."

As for her children, Malone said she uses her growing up experiences and the strength of the women from her youth as tools to help her in raising them. She also relies on her children's father.

"The kids' father is outstanding; I could not do this without him," Malone said.

This loving mother raves about her kids to anyone who will listen, including a captive audience. On her Facebook page in February she wrote, "Loving children is the only love that can make you cry with pride, cry with pain, cry when they cry, and cry just looking at them - realizing how much you love them... Thankful for my three beautiful children."

"I tell my kids to always do their best no matter what, and to treat everyone as you would want to be treated," Malone said. "I tell them every day that I love them and how important they are to me."

Hawkins said that Malone represents all mothers who work to balance a commitment to their family and a desire to serve their country.

"She is not the traditional image of the mother who is always home to care for her family daily. But she is the image of the modern-day mother who has made hard choices and faced tremendous challenges as a mom and as a Soldier," Hawkins said. "Sergeant Malone is a strong example of a mother who exemplifies leadership, dedication and service in everything she does."

And service is something Malone stresses as important.

"Doing my job as a Soldier is vitally important to me," she said. "I try to be the best I possibly can be and make my children as proud of me as I am of them. I am not ready to hang up my uniform, not yet. I still have time in me to serve my country. I am a patriot. Plain and simple - I would die for my country."

For voting instructions or information on the contest, visit or or search on Facebook for "Military Motherhood Award" to link to Malone's MMA Facebook page.

Following the voting period, which ends April 7, a panel of judges will select a winner from the top five finalists. The winner will receive $5,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.