K.T. McFARLAND: On Mother's Day, the Women In Our Armed Forces Deserve Special Thanks

By Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland National Security Expert

Bagram Airbase May 5, 2009

Sunday is Mother's Day. Mothers with young children will no doubt get breakfast in bed, with syrup dripping over pancakes....and onto the rung. If your kids are teenagers, they'll take you out to lunch. If you're an empty-nester, you'll get flowers delivered, and if your kids have kids of their own, you'll be lucky if you even get a phone call.

This year, for the first time, my five children and stepchildren are far from home. So, rather than sit anxiously near the phone hoping they'll remember me, I've decided to join some young military mothers who are far from their own children. I've headed to Afghanistan.

America has had women in the military for decades -- as nurses, secretaries, and clerks. Over the years women have expanded into more military specialties. Today they're pilots, intelligence officers, doctors, convoy escorts, MPs, and surface warfare officers. They graduate from ROTC and the Service Academies and have climbed to the senior ranks of both the enlisted and officer corps.

Technically women are prohibited from joining combat specialties,or being on the front lines of battle. but modern war doesn't have a front line -- with guerilla and urban warfare, everyplace is a potential combat zone.

Women now make up 20% of the military, when you include Active Duty, Guard and Reserve forces. They're deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside our male combat troops and far away from home. Many of them, like Army Staff Sergeant Etta Tuttle, have left young children behind.

Sergeant Tuttle works in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base as the Army's equivalent of a travel agent -- booking flights for military personnel going in and out of Afghanistan. She may not know flight schedules to Baja or the Bahamas, but she can get you to Kandahar, Kyrgyzstan or Kuwait. Back home at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Sgt Tuttle's two young daughters and husband, Army warrant officer Brian Tuttle. The Tuttles met in the army, had children in the army, and try to space their overseas deployments so one of them is always stationed home with the girls.

So when you celebrate Mother's Day this year remember there are other mothers -- also juggling jobs, marriage and children --but whose career takes them thousands of miles away for a year at a time.

The women in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard deserve our special thanks. I'll be with some of them this Mother's Day, in the mountains of Afghanistan, while they fight in a far away land to keep you and me safe at home. May God Bless them all.