The month of May commemorates individuals who have given their all in service to their family and their country. These individuals hold the dual titles of mother and Sailor. These modern-day warriors endure being away from their families and loved ones in order to complete the mission, even on Mother’s Day.
“Mother’s Day for me was always about my mother,” said Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kristin Schuster. “Even though my oldest child is seven, right up until about a year-and-a-half ago, Mother’s Day was still always about my mom, not about me. For me, Mother’s Day this year is really hard because I don’t have my mom to celebrate with anymore. Then add in that I can’t be home with the rest of my family, not just with my kids, but even my dad, [makes it tougher]. Mother’s Day and my birthday have always been kind of a big deal for my family, and I don’t get that this year. This year will be a different kind of Mother’s Day, as all the moms aboard will be celebrating it with each other.”
It is a difficult circumstance to manage, but aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD7), there are Sailors that do it every day. Each has different methods of handling this situation.
“Starting out the process, you already know that you’re going on a Navy ship, and you know you’re going to be there for years,” said Lt. Petunia Orr. “The minute you come aboard this ship you have to start prepping your family for that departure. You have to allow your spouse to make most of the decisions, and if you’re a controlling person like me that’s pretty hard to do. [You have to] allow the household to operate without you.”
Communication is vital when serving aboard a Navy vessel traveling around the world. Iwo Jima provides Sailors with services such as internet connectivity and “Sailor phones” so they can stay connected with their families back home.
“Keeping in contact is very important,” said Quartermaster 3rd Class Nathifa Reaves. “My eldest son is able to e-mail me and talk to me on the phone. That just kind of reassures me that he loves me, and he misses me, and he knows why I am here, which makes things a little easier.”
Other Sailors just find solace in focusing on the mission at hand. Qualifications, daily tasks and accomplishment of goals are their motivation.
“I am naturally a person that likes to stay busy.” said Orr. “The last thing you want to do is just sit there and mope and miss your family. You have to realize you still have to perform a mission. I have to perform a mission for my Sailors and the ship.”
Though they cope with the sacrifices differently, these Sailors understand their service and perseverance are important to providing the best lifestyle for their children.
“It’s the opportunity to give my children everything they deserve; and they deserve it,” said Reaves. “‘No’ is not an answer.”
Schuster puts missing Mother’s Day in context with what her military service means to her as a whole.
“I’ve got eight-and-a-half years left in the Navy.” said Schuster. “That will put my oldest at 15-and-a -half years when I get to retire at 20 [years of service]. I’ll have accomplished something in my life that will give me something back later on top of also having children. My family and the Navy are the only things I can count on.”
Iwo Jima, homeported in Mayport, Florida, is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes Iwo Jima, the transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.