Memorial Day: An Army Mom’s Reflection

Army Mom Tracie Ciambotti and her son, Josh.

I awoke this morning thinking about how different this Memorial Day is from 2011’s.  I recall—all too well—the dread that plagued me this holiday weekend last year as my son was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in early June.  Those last couple weeks prior to his departures are always difficult with the constant anticipation of having to say good-bye looming.

This year I am so thankful to have him home on American soil and relieved that my daily battle with the worry and fear that accompany his deployments has ended too.

Many of our nation’s sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers have come home from war over the past year.  Sadly, some will forever be remembered as fallen heroes; others are now wounded warriors fighting to recover from severe injuries or missing limbs; many are struggling silently to reintegrate into non-war life and regain some sense of normalcy—if there is such a thing.

Thousands of service members are currently deployed in war zones; others have just begun their tours of duty; some are now preparing for an upcoming deployment.

I doubt we will we ever know the full impact of war on our military families. Continue reading

Military Families Ministry’s Co-Founder Receives Award

Tracie Ciambotti is co-founder of the Military Families Ministry.

Paula Parker, staff assistant in the Penn State Justice and Safety Institute, is the 2012 recipient of the Barash Award for Human Service.

Created in 1975 by the family of the late Sy Barash, the award honors a full-time member of the faculty or staff or student body on the University Park campus who, apart from his or her regular duties, has contributed the most to human causes, public service activities and organizations, or the welfare of fellow humans.

Parker is being recognized for her work as co-founder and director of the Military Families Ministry, (MFM) which provides support to members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. In 2009, when her oldest daughter deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps, Parker and local Army mom Tracie Ciambotti launched the Military Families Ministry at the State College Alliance Church. Six months later, Ciambotti moved to Colorado, where she started a similar group, and Parker took on sole leadership in State College.

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Deployment Cycles: Stage 3 – Emotional Disorganization

The book cover of Tracie Ciambotti's book, Battles of the Heart.

Emotional disorganization, or stage 3 of the emotional cycle of deployment, occurs during the first six weeks of deployment.  My experience with this cycle, as the mother of a soldier, is different from that of a spouse; my husband is still here, my daily routine doesn’t change, and I don’t take on new responsibilities as a single parent and head of the household.

Although I try to prepare my emotions for my son’s departure, I can’t fully concoct, or practice controlling, the emotions that begin to flow once we have said our good-byes and I watch him walk away.

The thoughts and questions that I try to fight off always seem to slip into my mind in the first days and weeks of a deployment: Will I ever see my son again?  I already miss him and the sound of his voice. 

Josh’s last deployment was his third and I’ve learned new lessons with each.    He received the best training in the world for his role as a combat soldier; I was not offered any training or preparation for my role as his mother.

I learned the hard way that when he goes to war—I face my own war at home.  His war is physical, mine is emotional.  Unlike my son, trained and confident, I was unaware and unprepared for the emotional battle that takes place in your heart and mind when your child goes to a war zone.

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Army Mom Shares Her Story: Boot Camp for Military Moms

“It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children.  From the moment we feel the first movement as they grow inside us; we take on the role of protector…

                …What happens to our basic instinct to protect our child when he or she is ordered to one of the most dangerous places in the world?  The one thing that comes so naturally to us, which we have done with ease for 18 years, is suddenly beyond our grasp.  Oh, we still feel the need, but we are no longer able to protect our children!  Worse than that, we cannot know exactly where they are, what they are doing, or if they are safe, injured or even alive.  What now?  How do we get through the day?  How do we survive?”  (Quote from Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms )

I started journaling the day my son left for his second deployment to Iraq in 2008.  What began as an exercise for my own sanity is now Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms.  I realized that I was not the only mother of a service member who was struggling with the emotional trauma of her child’s deployment and I became passionate about helping others.

In Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms, I share my personal experiences and challenges with the emotional side of deployment and offer a training guide to help other moms and family members cope with a loved one’s deployment.

In addition to writing about my experience, I co-founded Military Families Ministry (MFM) with another military mom, Paula Parker.  MFM is focused on supporting the entire military family through the establishment of ministry and support groups in churches and communities.  We unite military families who support each other while working on service projects to support our deployed troops, wounded warriors, and veterans.

Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms is a reminder that our nation’s freedom is not free.  Military families pay a very real price for that freedom.  I want to create awareness of the sacrifices made by our service members and their entire family. My goal is to inspire individuals, churches, and community groups to support the military families in their midst.  Visit Battles of the Heart on Facebook.

Army Mom Responds to Burning of Korans

An Afghan policeman aims at protesters by a burning police truck set alight during an anti-U.S. demonstration on Friday over burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. (Hoshang Hashimi/AP Photo )

It is unclear yet if it was a very bad decision or an inadvertent error, as the President stated in his written apology, which resulted in the burning of Korans at the Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.   In either case, it is deeply troubling and quite honestly mind numbing that this could happen.

Anyone who knows anything about the Muslim religion understands that the Koran is their most sacred possession; common sense should dictate that when you are occupying a country, you should not burn that country’s holiest of holy books.

This situation has undermined the mission of some of our troops who spend a great deal of time visiting with local Afghan village leaders in an effort to build relationships and mutual respect.  This incident has already claimed the lives of two American service members, the number of Afghan protestors killed increases daily, and the full consequences are yet to unfold.  Fox News reported Friday that protests have erupted in provinces across Afghanistan and riots have now spread over the border into Pakistan.

Call it a bad decision or an inadvertent error, does it really matter when you see the devastation this situation has caused?

Army Mom: Expecting the Unexpected from a Deployed Son

The Christmas tree, yet no celebration due to a change in orders.

My son’s platoon arrived back at Fort Carson on December 21st.  Alison had their new apartment all set up and decorated for Christmas—everything was perfect and the only thing missing was Josh.  Unfortunately, my son did not come home with his platoon.  Josh’s orders had changed and he would return at a later date.

All the planning and preparation for a wonderful Christmas with Josh came to a screeching halt.  Alison flew back to Montana to spend the holidays with her family.  The beautifully decorated Christmas tree stood in the cold apartment with no Christmas celebration in sight.

One thing I have learned as an Army mom is to expect the unexpected, but when it happens it still hits hard and sends my emotions on a roller coaster ride.  It was heart-wrenching to think about the tree that went up, with such anticipation of the wonderful Christmas to come, but would have to be taken down without any Christmas celebration.

Tracie receives her unexpected surprise - her son Josh returned from Afghanistan.

The worst for me was the irony that I, through Military Families Ministry, launched a project that sent almost 1800 stockings to deployed troops for Christmas, yet my own son would spend Christmas in Afghanistan with no stocking, not one gift or package from home.  I was angry at the Army and heart-broken for my son.

Last week, Alison called to tell me that Josh had been released and should be arriving within the week.    On Wednesday, she sent me a text to say she was coming up that evening and would stay with us until he got home. When the door opened and I turned to say hello, it was not Alison that I saw—it was Josh.  I sat, stunned for what seemed a long time, before I stood to greet and hug my son.  The hug was precious and full of relief; different from the hug that sent him off to Afghanistan last June.

Tracie in the arms of her son - getting her return home hug.

Military Moms and Wives Share Deployment Coping Skills

Many couples schedule pre-deployment photos to preserve their memories.

Tracie Ciambotti writes eloquently about the emotional cycles for a mom when a child deploys. Her words resonated with some military moms and spouses. Their comments follow:

Lynlee Darby – The fear at times becomes almost too much

Thank you for putting into words what is on our hearts. My son Chance is going for his second deployment soon and we are at the stage 1. I want to be with him every second I can…..and he has many people he wants to spend time with. Its one of the hardest things I have ever done. I tried to make his time at home Christmas as special as possible. And to cherish each second I had with him. We have a large family and he has lots of friends. It is so hard to get everything in.

I am not sure how to describe how I feel! How do you describe so much pride and belief in your child at the same time your heart is aching knowing he will miss meals, be cold, be in danger, not sleep in comfort and be away from everyone he loves. And the fear at times becomes almost too much. I try really hard to keep in the front of my heart and mind that God has a plan for him. And He can keep him better than I can (which is hard to admit since he’s my baby!)

I know a lot of parents are facing deployment of a child right now and I hurt for them also. Just like I hurt for the girlfriends and wives and children of those who are deployed. I wish there was some way to ease the pain and fear, just one day at a time and a constant reminder that God is ever-present.

Tracie with her son Josh prior to his deployment.

Gerry Overbo – I am trying to be very strong

Thank you so much, my son deploys out at the end of this month. His first and as a mother this is very emotional, as I sit here reading tears are streaming down.

I am trying to be very strong because I don’t want him to worry about the home-front. As a single parent, he always was my rock … what I need to do as a military mom is make this as easy on my solder as possible.

Deployment day at Fort Carson.

Laurie Hammerschmidt – We are so much stronger today

This is my husband second deployment. I believe that these stages of deployment are different for Moms vs. Spouses, New Spouses vs. Seasoned Spouses, and then there are spouses with children, young and old. Deployment affects many in many different ways. My husband and I believe that these deployments will either make or break your marriage. We have been fortunate as we feel we are sooo much stronger today, together than we were at the beginning of the first one.

I give you credit for trying to put into words what its like., but really there is no describing the absence of your spouse in your life for a year out of a time, not having your dad there for all the special things in your life. I have dealt with natural disasters alone, college life and expenses alone, broken down cars, sickly, near death family members, illnesses, broken bones in our children, car accidents, broken down appliances, boy friend issues, holidays, some deaths, snow removal….and many other things to numerous to mention….

But my husband is a proud soldier, a good soldier, a good husband and father. He loves his country and what he does. He is respected by his superiors as well as his charges. No matter how hard it has been for me, I will always be here for him and support him, because I know this is just as hard, if not harder, on him.

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