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Celebrating holidays, especially Mother’s Day, when your child is overseas in a war zone, is an experience unlike any –“lost” is the word that comes to mind, a feeling I am all too familiar with. My son and only child, Renny, is a Marine and served in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar in 2006, in Baghdad in 2008, and was in the Green Zone at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq when it was bombed.  On this Mother’s Day, I applaud the brave and courageous mothers who face the fear and uncertainty every day.

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I remember spending other holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with all my husband’s family surrounding us and feeling such a sense of loss and jealousy because everyone else had their child next to them or at least within reach by telephone.  I felt alone in the midst of all the festivities – not that I would let on and spoil it for others. Although I’m no stranger to acting, this was the hardest part I would ever have to play.

I can remember being at a golf course one summer when Renny was in Iraq, listening to people complaining about the heat and wanting to scream that my son was in real heat  — 135-degree heat  — wearing a uniform and a bulletproof vest instead of shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I wanted to say how very proud I was that he was serving his country while we were all comfortable and at ease. I wanted to say remember 9/11, and remember all our military men and women who are over in the deserts fighting and losing their lives while we eat dinner and watch TV and read books and chat about our newest purchases and our silly gripes.

The mothers of children who serve in the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the Coast Guard, or the Air Force — the mothers whose children are in danger zones –live a different sort of life.  Their child willingly chose to go there. They weren’t forced to join. They weren’t coerced to enter. They proudly went into the world of war and the world of danger.

These children are a different set of human beings. They belong to past heroes and they emulate the “right stuff” and that is what we need to remember on this Mother’s Day when everyone is celebrating, and we might not hear from our sons and daughters.

We mothers are proud of our warriors and petrified at the same time. We love their bravery but hate it because it tore them from us. We admire their choice but wish it wasn’t the one they picked. My son came home as a Captain and is finished serving in the Marine Corps. But once a Marine, always a Marine, and the same holds true for all the services.

I am so proud of the mothers of our soldiers and sailors and pilots who are resilient and lighthearted in the midst of their fear and their sadness. Our children need us to be brave. My son once said he needed to know we were taken care of so he could do what he had to do and not worry about us while he was over there. That is the part we have to play as mothers of soldiers – that we are not falling apart and needy. That just makes it harder for them.

Young wives and mothers of young children have it hardest. They are raising their children alone and are so tired and scared. We older mothers need to show them our support. That is the least we can do for them.

I am so proud to be the mother of a Marine. It is unbelievable and unbearable and breathtaking all at once. Let’s celebrate our children wherever they are. Let’s pray for all the mothers today whose children are fighting for our freedom.

Tina Sloan,  author of “Changing Shoes: Getting Older — Not Old —  with Style, Humor, and Grace,” played the role of Nurse Lillian Raines on “Guiding Light” for 26 years, which aired its final episode in 2009 after a seventy-two year run on radio and television.  You can order her book on Amazon.com.

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