Photo Credit: Kelly Wallace
Every time I have the privilege of interviewing a military mom or wife, I’m struck by two things: First, their modesty about the immense sacrifice they are making and second, how raw the emotions are when they talk about long deployments and caring for their families while their loved ones are far away.
Recently, Procter & Gamble flew me down to Washington, D.C. so I could spend some time with military moms and wives as they got all dolled up inside a beauty suite (set up by P&G) before the USO’s annual gala.
Five military men were recognized at the gala -- one from each branch of the services -- for their extraordinary acts of heroism. One of the honorees was Sgt. Eric Walker, the USO’s Marine of the Year, who is credited with saving the lives of a wounded fellow Marine and directing troops to safety. He and his team travelled for more than a mile while facing continuous fire from insurgents in Afghanistan last year.
I met Walker’s wife, Kelly -- and his mother and grandmother -- as they were treated to complimentary makeup and hair styling before the evening’s black tie event. “I very much enjoyed it,” Kelly, a mother or two, told me after her beauty sessions. “I don’t get pampering, I guess, very much, so it was quite enjoyable to have someone do my hair and my makeup.”
There’s not much time for pampering, especially when she, like many military wives, care for their families singlehandedly while their husbands are overseas. Kelly’s husband deployed to Iraq in 2005 and again in 2006, and he served in Afghanistan last year. “It’s hard, you know, I mean (being) honest, being at home all the time, with just my two kids, by myself, doing everything by myself,” she said, as her eyes started to well up a bit. “It’s hard not having him home all the time or, you know, the kids not being able to talk to him. It’s hard on them."
Their two-year-old, she said, is too young to understand, but it’s tougher to explain Dad's absence their five-year-old. “We just tell him Daddy has to go to work, but he has to go to work far away and that he’ll be gone for a while. But he’ll get to talk to him and he’ll be home,” she said. She uses calendars with her son to mark the days Walker is gone and relies on a talking “daddy doll" -- "so he gets to hear my husband’s voice talking to him, telling him he loves him and stuff," Kelly explains. "He sleeps with it."
I asked Kelly if she feels military moms and wives are too often overlooked -- I think they are! -- but she wanted to put the spotlight elsewhere. “I’m just very proud of (my husband) and what he does, and so I’m honored for what I get to do for him,” she said.
But as far as I'm concerned, there are two heroes in this story: Sgt. Eric Walker and his amazing wife.
Go to www.givebackten.org to learn about the USO’s new program to help military families.
Do you have a military hero -- wives and moms included -- in your life? Tell us about them. Chime in below!