TIKRIT, Iraq – As of last November, there were approximately 30,000 mothers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mothers deployed to Iraq with the 4th infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan. have done their part to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
1st Lt. Tara Fields, an officer with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT, is just one of the many mothers in the brigade.
Fields made the difficult decision to deploy just six months after giving birth to her daughter, Madison.
"I think a lot of times, women in the military often have to make the choice between being a mother and being a Soldier," she said.
Fields, whose husband is also deployed, is thankful for her Family and a strong support system at home.
"It was a hard decision [leaving] a daughter who is six months old and trying to fulfill my duties as a Soldier," she said, "but I'm glad I came over and did the right thing. I definitely [have] a great family care plan. She's well taken care of."
Pfc. Joleen Bautista, with Company B, 701st Brigade Support Battalion, said she enjoys being a Soldier even though being away from her three-year-old son is not easy.
"It's hard wanting to be home and wanting to be with your kids, but it keeps you focused … because you remember you have something to work for," she said.
Bautista says that motherhood is "the best job in the world, and there's no better feeling than having someone call you mommy."
For some mothers, it is a sense of patriotic duty that leads them to continue serving their country despite the challenge of juggling motherhood and a career in the Army.
Sgt. Cindi Thayer hopes that her son can be proud of her decision to serve someday.
"As he grows up, he's going to know his mom is in the Army and doing something that means so much to everybody and it's something that he can be very proud of," Thayer said of her two-year-old son, Jason.
Many Army mothers look up to their own mothers as good examples.
Staff Sgt. Jessica Blancarte, a mother of two girls, recognizes her mother as the most influential person in her life.
"Everybody has to make sacrifices, and she made a lot of sacrifices for us growing up even though I didn't see it when I was younger; now that I have kids of my own, I realize all the sacrifices she made in her life to better us," she said.
As the "Dragon" brigade prepares to transition out of Iraq this summer, mothers look forward to reuniting with their children, just as children look forward to reuniting with their mothers.
This work, Women find strength in being mothers, Soldiers, by SSG Richard Colletta, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.