By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Traditionally, women in our country bore children and stayed home to raise them while the men left home to defend our nation against her enemies.
Times have definitely changed; today both men and women in the armed forces sacrifice greatly for just causes. We live in a world where life, love and the pursuit of happiness are common themes among Americans.
In keeping with this motto, many people say that their lives really started the day they arrived in the U.S. to pursue a new life or the day that they met their soul mate; for me it was actually a little different. My life started a couple years after getting married when at age 20 I became a mother and again at age 24.
During the month of April we take time to reflect on the reason most of us wake up every morning and willingly put our lives on the line. It is designated as a Department of Defense-wide observance, the Month of the Military Child.
As a U.S. Air Force photojournalist and the mother of two beautiful girls I have the distinct honor of doing both; defending my country and pursuing my version of happiness and count myself lucky to have the freedom to do so. But it has not been easy.
Before my oldest daughter, Avah, now five, was even two, I was called to serve on my first deployment at the same time my husband, a USAF crew chief, went on his remote tour to a base in southern Korea. On opposite ends of the world we were required to function as parents and as Airmen.
The day I left my daughter for the first time she was one and a half. It felt like the life was sucked right out of me and remained gone until the day I returned home to her four months later.
This time while serving in Afghanistan on a slightly longer deployment as an advisor to Afghan air force public affairs airmen, I have been placed into a slightly less difficult situation.
My daughters, Avah and Sophia, age one, are now with the only other person that I trust with my life and theirs. His name is daddy, and he is acting as both mommy and daddy; the prince charming that my daughters need him to be in my absence.
He has taken on the unique challenges that come with being a male mommy. The daily tasks that are usually performed by myself are now met with “I don’t like this food” or “my mommy does it different.”
My daughters don’t totally understand why I chose to serve and that it is sometimes necessary for me to be gone, however they adjusted like champs to the drastic change.
Never-the-less, at 4 foot 11 inches, I’ve never been compared to any super hero other then Mighty Mouse, the legendary super hero that fights evil despite his small size, until recently when my daughter compared me to the pink ‘Mighty Morphin Power Ranger’.
She said that I was “fighting the bad guys” and “teaching people how to take great pictures.”
I often get notifications from my daughter’s teacher explaining how I am never far from conversation in a classroom filled with four and five year-old girls that see me as a real life super hero.
The fact that my daughter brags to her friends and truly believes that I wear a pink leather outfit under this multi-cam uniform makes me laugh and inspires the hope and strength that I need to continue to move forward in helping enhance the capabilities of Afghanistan.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to travel on a humanitarian mission in southern Afghanistan and saw firsthand that I was lucky.
Using a popular video chat system, I sat and explained some of the privileges and freedoms we enjoy to my daughters. It is easy to take many of these things for granted.
Of course my conversation was met with more questions than a five and one year-old could understand, but I was pleased to hear that although I’ve missed a birthday, the holidays, the tooth fairy’s first visit and the Easter Bunny so far that I was still a prized mommy.
A statement that was reiterated by, ” don’t worry mommy, it’s ok that you’re gone but remember when you’re done doing your job we are all going to Disney World like you promised when you left.”
I have accomplished many things in my life, yet to me none mean more to me then my two greatest ones who wait anxiously for my return home. So although April is the designated month for military children, they should be rewarded and cherished for the sacrifices they make year-round on behalf of our nation’s defense.