“Thank you for taking the time to write and send packages to soldiers. The items provided to me were more than any one soldier could ask for. Words cannot express the way a soldier feels, when they know that their fellow Americans support the effort put in to keeping this world and our country safe.  Again, thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, and thank you for appreciating our efforts.” SPC Garcia

Those words were written by Specialist T. Garcia in response to a Christmas package that I sent her in 2006. I “adopted” Garcia that year along with three other female soldiers who were stationed in Iraq and had made special requests for things that we, in the States normally take for granted.

Women make up 14% of our armed forces and there are approximately 1.5 million female veterans. According to a New York Times article by Lizette Alvarez, more than 100,000 female soldiers who have served in wars are mothers who are primary care givers and a third are single parents. It is not easy serving your country while your children are half-way around the world being cared for by extended families and in some cases, friends and strangers. Such was the case of Willa Townes who was a single mom in the Army Reserve. Her sister had originally agreed to care for her son but then reneged two weeks before Towns was to deploy to Iraq. A former daycare provider who was a non-relative assumed the responsibility which allowed Towns to continue her 15 year military career.

Being a mother and a soldier has its own unique challenges. Long periods away from children can pose many problems upon one’s return. Was there permissiveness during the mother’s absence when there should have been discipline?  Have the children’s grades suffered? Is the mother a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder? Nearly 2 million children have seen their parents go to war and some mothers have not returned. The Iraqi and Afghanistan conflict have claimed the lives of 25 mothers out of 121 female casualties. The divorce rate for women in the military is also 2 to 3 times greater than their male counterparts in every branch of the armed forces according to a Huffington Post article by Laura Stampler.

So, while we remember our departed heroes on this Memorial Day, let’s also remember our female soldiers who make individual sacrifices so that we may receive the global rewards. Thank you, my sisters for all that you do.