|Moms wear combat boots
By Eli PaintedCrow
16 May 2007
At the age of twenty, being a mother of a three and five year-old
was not easy. Being a single mom on welfare living in a
cockroach-infested apartment was not living. I thought I needed to learn
discipline, so I walked into the army recruitment office. I spent my
21st birthday in boot camp on a five-mile road march. Many a mom has
gone through boot camp. I was no exception.
Today I work towards building a network of women, many of them mothers,
who have served in the US military. We seek ways to tell the truth and
speak for peace. This Mothers' Day is a time to remember the mothers
serving in the military whose stories you're not likely to hear.
In 1987 I was activated and left for Honduras. Once you put on the
uniform, you're a soldier and you do what is expected of you. You do
your job and try not to think. You learn to shut your emotions off. When
I returned I didn't talk with my sons about these life changes. You just
come back, go to work, feed your kids.
In 1993 I went to drill sergeant school. Another eight weeks away from
home. As a woman in the military, I had to eliminate showing any emotion
or insecurity. It affected how I raised my sons. They knew what it was
like to be in the military at very young ages. You lose emotions; you
lose yourself and connections to others. They drove it out of me in boot
camp and finished it off by sending me to Iraq. I don't feel like a very
good mom or partner these days.
My depression can be severe. Some days I can get out of bed, some days I
can't. Other times all I can do is cry. The military teaches you to
accept the rules. When you have PTSD, the VA's evaluation process seems
to be the biggest obstacle to get help. Most veterans just give up.
Women are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and don't know what is
happening to them. They can't be around their kids; they can't control
their anger or sadness and no one can get close to them. They're
suffering from PTSD but they pretend they're all right because they
don't want to look weak.
When I started to speak about my experience, my son, a former Marine,
thought I was crazy. He is still afraid for me. He thinks someone is
going to kill me if I keep talking. But as a mother and a grandmother of
eight, I feel there is an obligation to clear the path for our children.
My tour in Iraq taught me this lesson.
It broke my heart to watch 20-year-olds walk in from patrol with faces
dirty from the dust and heat - looking as if they just came in off the
playground - with pictures of their loved ones on their armbands and
their weapons on their backs, talking about how they just graduated high
Mothers cry for their babies, here and in Iraq. Mothers are the
casualties that are not counted. We are the wounded that go untreated.
We are also the healers that can change anything. We protect life
because we give it. Send a Prayer for the mothers and babies who have
lost each other. This Mother's Day remember them, remember us. We need
each other to heal. And for all mothers who feel helpless because they
think they can't do anything to stop the war - if you knew the truth you
This month, here in northern California, women veterans are gathering to
heal from the trauma of military service and war, to document our
stories and to support our transformation from soldiers to peacemakers.