Last year, I was sitting in Iraq, crying my eyes out as my little girl came home from her first day of kindergarten. I remember sitting in my CHU, listening as my mom held her on her lap. She wouldn’t talk because she was exhausted from school. I could practically see her curled up on my mom’s lap on the porch, just listening to my voice and my husbands voice from halfway around the world.

When we came home from Iraq, she started a new school, halfway through the school year. Within a day, she hated school, hated going, didn’t want to get up in the morning. All of it. I won’t lie and tell you coming home and getting her back into school down here in Texas was easy. It wasn’t. in fact, it was pretty close to hell. My husband and I thought about pulling her out of Kindergarten and back into pre-K. We thought about getting her tested. We talked about counseling.

All my little girl needed was some time. Through working with her teacher, truly a gift that year, we managed to get through it. She’d send home notes or emails and I’d reinforce what was going on in school. And she did it. I am so freakin proud of my little girl for getting through that. I know thousands of military kids go through stuff like that every year but you know what? Those aren’t my kids. Mine was the one I was worried about.

So this year, getting to be here and walk her into her classroom this morning was a very big deal for us. And for her too. She was all smiles, and very excited to go. There was only one girl in her class from last year (I admit to being disappointed that she didn’t end up in class with her best friend from last year but she’ll be okay) and I love her teacher. But thinking back on last year and remembering how upset I was that I missed it makes the coming year so much more special. Missing her first day of school was by far one of the worst days I had over there. And being here for it this year was so precious. My little one, however, remains grumpy that she’s not starting school this year but she’ll be okay. Of that, I’m certain.

For us military moms and dads, there is so much over the last decade that we’ve missed out on. Some moms have deployed only once and have been fortunate to be there for their kids. Other moms have deployed back to back since 04 or 01 and haven’t caught a break. And neither have the dads. Its tough to maintain a sense of family when one half of the family is gone every other year. But this is what we do. Its part of the sacrifice that we make when we raised our right hand and either commissioned or enlisted or in some cases, both.

So don’t pity us. Don’t act like military moms are victims of some male misogyny when we have to deploy away from our families. Don’t hold up women who deliberately shirked their duties as soldiers as some kind of martyr for military moms. We’re here because we want to b here and we do our jobs, just like everyone else.

Its just that sometimes, we close the door to our CHU and cry our eyes out because we missed a first day of school, or a birthday, or some other milestone that will only be lived through pictures. It hurts and sometimes, you have to let the hurt out. And then you put it away and get back after it because the soldier to your left and right needs you to have your head in the game.

And it makes those milestones that you are home for just that much more special.