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Patriotic Article
Military

By Army Sgt. Debra Richardson

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How To Be A Mother 8,000 Miles Away
(April 2, 2011)

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March 22, 2011 -- Shonna Miller assigned to 1/201st Field Artillery, W.Va. Army Guard helps fellow 201st soldiers load Kuwaiti monition rounds at the Udairi Range in Kuwait. Miller is a mother of two from Charleston, W.Va., and faces a daily struggle to be an engaging part of her children's lives while deployed.
March 22, 2011 -- Shonna Miller (left) assigned to 1/201st Field Artillery, W.Va. Army Guard helps fellow 201st soldiers load Kuwaiti monition rounds at the Udairi Range in Kuwait. Miller is a mother of two from Charleston, W.Va., and faces a daily struggle to be an engaging part of her children's lives while deployed.
 CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (March 29, 2011) — It might be argued that citizen-soldiers are the backbone of America's modern Army, deploying in support of foreign wars while maintaining support back home. West Virginia National Guard soldiers specifically have witnessed a constant deployment rotation, with many troops having already accumulated five tours since 2001. Included in that backbone are women, who endure the separation from their children while attempting to maintain a semblance of their motherly duties thousands of miles away.

“The mother in me hurts all the time, but the soldier in me says chin up, carry on, and get your job done,” said Spc. Shonna Miller, of the 1/201st Field Artillery, West Virginia Army Guard. “Those few moments when I find myself in solitude are the worst, but it's almost a relief to have a good cry and finally feel the emotions we soldiers try so hard to repress.”

Miller, a musician in the 249th West Virginia Army Band, volunteered for the deployment and currently works as a human resource specialist for B Company.

“One of the main reasons for this deployment is so that we can move back to Charleston so I can be in the same city as my son,” Miller said. “He lives there with his father, and because of the need for aggressive speech therapy, I didn't want to move him to Morgantown with us three years ago and make him change doctors and therapists. Once I am home I will have my son a few nights a week and I won't have to miss him anymore.”

Emma, 3-years-old and Ayden, 6, are handling the extended
separation from their mother differently.

“Emma is too young to understand time and I think she thought it was going to be like a drill weekend,” Miller said. “She gave me a hug and a kiss and said, ‘I'll see you later, Mommy. I love you.' We told Ayden that it would be a couple of months before he would see me again. He was sad but was happy when we told him that when I got home we would be living much closer to him.”

At mid-deployment, Miller has settled into the daily routine and days pass quickly for her. While the internet isn't always stable, it offers evenings of bliss, as Miller often uses Skype to video chat with her children.

“I print off coloring pages of some of their favorite things,” Miller said. “I will color one or two and include an uncolored sheet for them to have fun with. They love it and because they can't read yet, it's the best I can do.”

As a mother, you want your children to adapt to the separation, but at the same time their eventual nonchalant behavior can make you feel unwanted and unmissed, Miller said.

“Some nights Emma will wake up and come sleep on Mommy's side of the bed and they have a little chat about how they miss me,” Miller said. “It breaks my heart, but it also helps to know that she thinks of me and I'm still part of their lives.”

Upon her return to West Virginia, Miller and her husband Noah have plans to open a restaurant in Charleston and reunite with Ayden. Miller finishes her military obligation in December and will pursue an education in hospitality management and marketing.

“I have the support of my family, and my husband left his job to be a stay at home daddy so I can do this,” Miller said. “A soldier is a soldier no matter their race or gender, and a child needs a father as much as a mother.”
Article and photo by Army Sgt. Debra Richardson
1st Field Artillery
Copyright 2011

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