My mother reacted differently and was more than pleased. It was probably one of her proudest moments and, to be honest, it felt good seeing her this way. My decision to accept the responsibility of military service spurred many conversations about achieving goals and breaking stereotypes — moments that I hold very dearly in my heart to this day and will never forget.
For the first time in my life, I had a career and opportunities for advancement. Mom was there every step of the way. Before I left for basic training, she gave me an angel pin that I carry to this day. She had a special gift that made me feel like, no matter how far I traveled, I was always home.
After four years of service, she backed my decision to leave active duty and pushed me to attend college. She was proud when I joined the Army Reserve and used tuition assistance to obtain my graduate degree.
It only seemed fitting to honor my mother by submitting my direct commission packet and become an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. To this day, I can still remember my mother with tears in her eyes as she pinned on my lieutenant bar.
I will never forget how she loved Civil War-era novels and the romanticism that went along with being an Army officer. She envisioned officers at fancy dinners smoking cigars, wearing swords and escorting Southern belles onto the dance floor. I never had the heart to break it to her that things had changed.
Mom herself never served in the military, but she was with me during every deployment, training exercise and transition in my life and military career. Even in poor health she managed to attend every event and ceremony I took part in.