Moms’ Basic Training

You’re in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard now…well you are not but your kiddo is. What now? If you are a military Brat like me or married to the military most of this will seem like common sense. But I know there are many of you who don’t have a clue about this whole new world. Let me take the mystery out of some of the biggest differences. When it comes to specific details about boot camp or service academies there are a plethora of sites available with the nitty gritty details. I want to talk more about the big picture and also give you some understanding about issues that you need to know.

Letting Go

There you are-its boot camp graduation or Induction Day at a service academy and someone inevitably thanks you for raising such a wonderful son or daughter. It’s all true. You poured blood sweat and tears into this wonderful child of yours. You di d everything you could to raise a decent human being. And now the reward is to see them step forward to serve their country and protect and defend all of us. We are overwhelmed with pride. It takes a little while to sink in that we have totally lost control of our most precious resource.

There is a saying the military will issue everything you need and Mothers are not an issued item. What? I just spent several decades teaching, advising, and protecting this child and all of a sudden I am insignificant? You betcha. I am not saying you wont be able to continue to communicate but you will no longer have any control. I like to describe it this way. In the beginning you were the driver, then as your child got his or her learners permit you were the copilot. Maybe you graduated to be a back seat driver but once they join the military that is all over. You are not even in the car.

Things you may have always taken care of-his dental appointment, or her taxes are now up to them along with a thousand other things. Not only that but there are some things they cannot even tell you. Aack! Talk about a shock. This is cutting the apron strings with a machete. And when trouble comes-and it will –you cannot schedule an appointment like you did with the teacher when things went off track. Its up to your son or daughter to learn to navigate without you.

Arguably this is easier for some of us than others-ahem . . . But not matter the service type there will be a moment when you realize that they are on their own. Of course this is a healthy part of growing up I mutter to myself. But it is shocking because it happens so quickly and we moms need to learn a new role. We need to adapt –to become advisors and supporters – and to see our children as competent adults. It can take a while to come to grips with such a big paradigm shift. Usually when there is trouble it is because we are trying to smother these independent warriors. They have a lot to learn and so do we. But the results are amazing young people, well trained with a disciplined sense of purpose. We want them to be their best selves right? That means we have to get out of the way and let them soar even if it means they are heading into harm’s way.

The Needs of the Service

As a military Brat I hated this phrase. It usually meant my dad could not take leave or come home. It still means that. It also means short notice deployments or assignments all over the earth. As we learn to roll with the flow and the service needs there are times when it can really sting. But remember they took an oath of service –a promise to do their duty even if it gets in our way.

So Mom to Mom I need to tell you to grin and bear it. Ok you don’t have to grin but you do have to bear it. Those empty chairs at the Thanksgiving table are just one of the many sacrifices we make as a family to support our service members. My advice is to not make it any harder on your children than it already is. Grumbling about it not being fair is best done in private. I recommend a hot bath while you do it –at least you will feel better afterwards.

Look for the joy even if it is really hard. Remember how proud you are of their choice to serve, even when it is difficult. Save your pennies so you can visit where they are. As I wrote in Be Safe, Love Mom embrace Semper Gumby-always flexible. Holidays are not a day on the calendar-it’s when you can be together.

And when it is all too much and you want the needs of the Momma to reign supreme-find another Military Mom to be your Battle Buddy. Remember you need to Be Brave and Be Strong. I love the story of the 300. Here it is in my son’s words in a Veteran’s Day message:

“Thank your veteran’s today, and I, as well as every other veteran will humbly appreciate your thanks, but please, thank our families on the 364 other days of the year, because they are the ones that allow us to do what we do, and truly are the strength of our country. Below is something I’ve shamelessly taken from Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire recounting the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae, and while it’s not necessarily historical fact, I think it could easily have been spoken 2300 years ago as easily as it could be said today:

“Leonidas picked the men he did, he explains, not for their warrior prowess as individuals or collectively. He could as easily have selected 300 others, or twenty groups of 300 others, and they all would have fought bravely and to the death. That was what Spartans were raised to do. Such an act was the apex, to them, of warrior honor.

“But the king didn’t pick his 300 champions for that quality. He picked them instead, he says, for the courage of their women. He chose these specific warriors for the strength of their wives and mothers to bear up under their loss.

“Leonidas knew that to defend Thermopylae was certain death. No force could stand against the overwhelming numbers of the Persian invaders. Leonidas also knew that ultimate victory would be brought about (if indeed it could be brought about) in subsequent battles, fought not by this initial band of defend.

“What would inspire these latter warriors? What would steel their will to resist—and prevent them from offering the tokens of surrender that the Persian king ers but by the united armies of the Greek city-states in the coming months and years. demanded of them?

“Leonidas knew that the 300 Spartans would die. The bigger question was how would Sparta herself react to their deaths? If Sparta fell apart, all of Greece would collapse with her. But who would the Spartans themselves look to in the decisive hour? They would look to the women—to the wives and mothers of the fallen.

“If these women gave way, if they fell to weeping and despair, then all the women of Sparta would give way too. Sparta herself would buckle and, with her, all of Greece.

“But the Spartan women didn’t break, and they didn’t give way. The year after Thermopylae, the Greek fleet and army threw back the Persian multitudes at Salamis and Plataea. The West survived then, in no small measure because of her women.”

We Can Do It!Let’s be Spartan Warrior Moms-Brave and Strong-not matter what the challenges ahead or the needs of the service. We can do it.


As a member of the military extended community it is important to understand OPSEC –one of the million acronyms used in the military. In this case it stands for operational security or in basic terms keeping our service members safe. In WW II days a favorite saying was “ Loose lips sink ships.” It is at another level now with internet security. We need to do what we can to keep private information private.

On this site if you are a contributor we won’t post your last name. If you send in a photo of your child in uniform make sure last names are blacked out. We also reserve the right to edit submissions or delete comments that are not within OPSEC guidelines.

Here is a set of easy to understand OPSEC Rules written by Marcella Stretch of Parents of Deployed- Service Members Facebook group. Thanks Marcella for your permission to use these guidelines. Also remember to follow the guidance of the military command your child is attached to. If they release information or photos they are public access.


OPSEC Rules For Military Families

Operations Security can’t be summed up in a brief list of rules and regulations and be expected to cover every possible situation. However, many forum, blogs and chat rooms need to set certain standards and guidelines in order to promote good OPSEC practices. These guidelines are often referred to as “OPSEC Rules”, and must be acknowledged before an account is created.

  1. Do not post exact deployment dates or redeployment dates
  2. Do not reveal camp locations, including nearby cities. After the deployment is officially announced by military officials, you may discuss locations that have been released, normally on the Country level.
  3. Do not discuss convoy routes (“we travelled through Takrit on our way to X”)
  4. Detailed information on the mission, capabilities or morale of a unit
  5. Specific names or actual nicknames
  6. Personnel transactions that occur in large numbers (Example: pay information, powers of attorney, wills, etc)
  7. Details concerning security procedures, response times, tactics
  8. Don’t discuss equipment or lack thereof, to include training equipment
  9. Don’t speculate about future operations
  10. If posting pictures, don’t post anything that could be misconstrued or used for propaganda purposes. A good rule of thumb is to look at your picture without your caption or explanation and consider if it could be re-captioned to reflect poorly on coalition forces. For example, your image might show your Soldier rescuing a child from a blast site, but could be re-captioned to insinuate that the child being captured or harmed. (it’s happened!)
  11. Avoid the use of count-up or count-down tickers for the same reason as rule #1
  12. Be very careful if posting pictures of your loved one. Avoid images that show significant landmarks near their base of operations, and black out last names and unit affiliations
  13. Do not, ever, post information about casualties (coalition or enemy) before the official release of the information.
  14. Do not pass on rumors (“I heard they’re coming home early”, etc)

If you have any questions, contact your Recruiter or Unit Commander or Family Readiness Representative.

These OPSEC rules aren’t meant to limit your free speech or restrict your liberties- that’s exactly what our Men and Women in uniform fight to protect. However, they are designed to help ensure the safety and security of the Service Members in your life.

Remember, no matter your affiliation, status, rank or age- you have a part in the security of your loved one!

And excellent in depth discussion of OPSEC can be found at this link.


January 24, 2005: This photograph is considered public domain and has been cleared for release by the United States Marine Corps. If you would like to republish please give the photographer appropriate credit.

USMC Photo By: Sgt. Nathan K. LaForte