AUGUSTA, Maine - When Michelle first said she was
thinking about going into the military, Amber thought she
was out of her mind. She never thought a mom could do
something like that. Less than 14 percent of the Army is
made up of females, and less than 10 percent of military
recruits over the age of 35, it is no wonder her mom's
seemingly abrupt decision came as a shock to Amber.
Struggling to overcome physical fears and complacency, the
37 year old was determined to realize a dream she had held
on since she was young, and she was going to convince her
daughter to come along for the ride.
Michelle Silvermane enlisted in the Maine Army National
Guard in 2007, less than a month apart from one another.
Thanks to a sergeant at the Military Entrance Processing
Center, they were enrolled in a buddy program, meaning they
would stick together during their training. The two native
Mainer's attended Army Basic Combat Training in Fort
Jackson, South Carolina, then continued on to their Advanced
Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
April 29, 2014 - “Most people get annoyed when their parents
call, it's like a chore,” said Sgt. Amber Silvermane. “I look
forward to having lunch with my mom every day. She's like a
therapist I don't have to pay for.” Amber, the full-time
administrative noncommissioned officer for Joint Force Headquarters,
and her mother Spc. Michelle Silvermane, attended basic training and
advanced individual training together in the fall of 2007, and serve
in the Maine Army National Guard full time. (U.S. Army National
Guard photo by Sgt. Angela Parady)
Michelle had always wanted to join the military, but having children
in her late teens made that seem like an impossible dream for years.
“My mother worked three jobs her whole life just trying to
support us kids,” said Amber.” She did a little bit of the CNA work,
she worked as a behavioral technician at one point, but she never
really had anything to call her own. She always put us first, and it
was always about us kids. She was the one who really wanted to
When her youngest was 16, Michelle's mind was made up.
Michelle said her husband, who served in the Army until Amber was 1,
was very supportive of her decision. Knowing it was something she
had really wanted to do, and knowing she had the support of her
family, Michelle went to the recruiter. She made Amber, who had
recently graduated high school and was working the graveyard shift
at a call-in center come with her.
“Amber was not going in a
direction I approved of,” said her mother. “She wasn't doing
anything illegal, or super bad, but I could see where it could go
really bad, really quickly.”
Amber, now the full time
administrative noncommissioned officer for Joint Force Headquarters
in Augusta, never gave the military any thought until her mother
told her she was going. She remembers thinking that the military
would never be a good match for her.
“My dad looked at me,
and said, ‘what are you doing right now? You aren't going anywhere.
If you hate it, it's not active duty, its one weekend a month, and
two weeks a year. Anyone can do that.' He was right, in a way.”
Amber enlisted in January, and her mother, who also works full
time for the Maine National Guard at Camp Keyes, Augusta, enlisted
the next month. The two were matched up, and left for basic training
At this point, both women were nervous.
Amber's dad had given them a rundown on what he had gone through
when he went to basic. He told Amber she was going to have to shave
her head. Michelle was mentally prepared for what she would face,
but not necessarily physically prepared.
“I knew mentally, I
could do it,” said Michelle, a healthcare specialist for the Maine
Army National Guard Medical Detachment, and full time case manager
for medical and behavioral health.
She knew that her own life
experiences would give her an advantage over some of the younger
recruits who may have a difficult time being yelled at, or ordered
around. She knew that, tough as it may be, she could look past the
yelling and screaming, and see the end result of what they were
trying to accomplish, a mentally tough, and disciplined soldier.
Michelle said changing her mindset as a 37-year old wife and
mother, was more difficult than she thought.
“I went from
being the one who organized everyone's lives, the one who made sure
they did what they were supposed to, when they were supposed to, and
were where they were supposed to be, to being told what to do and
when to do it,” she said. “I think that was the hardest struggle for
Michelle has always had a close bond with her daughters.
Going to training together gave the women a support system as they
faced the same challenges, the same struggles every day. However,
they also had to handle a certain level of misperception, being
mother and daughter. While both women were ready and prepared to
help each other along the way, they were also ready to independently
be successful. There was a constant hyperawareness of their
mother-daughter status. At Fort Jackson, they were warned by
commanders that this wasn't something they approved of. Michelle
remembers a commander asking her what she would do if Amber was
dropped and yelled at by a drill sergeant.
“I looked at him
and said, I held her accountable as a child, I expect you to a hold
her accountable as a soldier. I think that kind of surprised him.”
Michelle said that level of discipline was common in her house.
Growing up, Amber and her sister knew that the results of their
decisions, well thought out, or a split second impulse, would be
theirs alone to face. It made the girls responsible, and for Amber,
part of why they are closer than most. The support they were able to
lend each other after hours in training helped each woman succeed
along the path to where they are now. Amber remembers when her
mother was almost sent back because she was going to fail basic
“My mother is an extraordinarily smart
woman, she is driven and passionate, but can be easily discouraged,”
said Amber. “To this day, she struggles with shooting. After a day
at the range we would come together and she would be tearing herself
apart. I would look at her and tell her, you are smart enough,
driven enough; you have to stop talking yourself out of things. You
have to stop being so detrimental to your own progress.”
blunt support helped the team graduate basic training together, and
quickly reversed roles when they both arrived in Texas for their
healthcare specialist training. Michelle would have to rein Amber in
at the end of a long day of classroom activities and power point
presentations, almost forcing her to focus and study so that they
could make it through together.
“She wanted to go for a walk,
go to the gym or the PX, but there was a very real chance that she
wasn't going to make it through AIT the first time if she didn't
buckle down,” said Michelle. “I would tell her, you are not getting
re-cycled, not here, not now. Open that book, we are going to study
and we are going to get you through this.”
struggled a lot, as they were torn down, and built back up by their
experiences. Now, they both work doors away from one another, and
get lunch together nearly every day. Amber said her mom has become a
personal counselor for her, and one she doesn't have to pay for.
Because they both live and breathe the Army life on a full time
basis, they understand a lot of the same things.
“She is a
constant source of support,” said Amber. “I know, the Army is a
family. The National Guard is a family. But every family has its
issues. There is a lot of he- said, she-said. People will share
rumors and secrets, but they aren't necessarily close. You don't
always know who you can talk to; who will keep what you say
confidential. But I can tell my mom anything. She can tell me
anything, it doesn't go anywhere. She gets me.”
proud to be where she is. She is proud to serve, and proud of her
girls who serve. For her, she has realized a life-long goal. It may
have taken her a bit longer to achieve it, but because she waited,
she was able to share her experience with her daughter. She said
that she has seen a change in Amber, who has found focus and
direction, while maintaining her happy and carefree outlook.
“I never expected either of us to accomplish what we have already
accomplished,” said Amber. “Everyone has aspirations to be something
someday, but that's just it. No one defines it. I never thought my
mom would really do this. I know I never thought I would be here.“
By U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Angela Parady
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