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Imagine raising a child alone as a single mother and with your nearest family and closest friends living more than 1,000 miles away.
This is a reality for Coast Guard Seaman Deanna Moentman. Originally from Seminole, Fla., Moentman is currently stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., and joined the Coast Guard in August 2010 because she wanted to serve her country and start a new career. She had no idea a year later her military service would be coupled with the challenges of raising a baby.
Moentman was happy when she became pregnant about a year after joining the Coast Guard, and at 27 years old, with a promising new career, she felt as though she was ready to start a family. However, during her pregnancy, the relationship with her boyfriend ended, and she delivered her daughter, Delayna, Aug. 27, 2012, as a proud, single mother.
Caring for a baby as a single mother can be challenging, and pairing the parental responsibility with the demands of active duty military service can feel impossible.
“It is so hard; every day is a challenge,” said Moentman. “I do everything alone that most families work together to do.”
Moentman juggles a lot of responsibility both at home and at work. She serves at the air station’s medical clinic, where she is responsible for scheduling appointments, maintaining records, taking patient’s vital signs and maintaining paperwork for referrals. At home, she is responsible for caring for her daughter, their home and their three dogs.
“As a junior-ranking member of the team here, Moentman consistently performs her duties as well as a petty officer,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Sam Thurston, Moentman’s supervisor. “She is an extremely hard worker and learns quickly.”
During the work week, she uses her lunch breaks to visit Delayna at a nearby daycare, which she says is the highlight of her hectic day, every day.
Moentman admits she worries about the amount of time her daughter spends in daycare. She said she worries Delayna will become more attached to her caregivers, and Moentman will miss significant milestones.
“It is important for me to go there every day, feed her and put her down for her nap; that time is so precious for me,” Moentman said. “If she starts to crawl, or learns something new, I just hope it will be during my lunch hour.”
Although caring for her daughter is Moentman’s priority, her Coast Guard career is equally important because it is how she supports Delayna and will earn them both future successes.
Thurston said, based on her work ethic, he can only see success in Moentman’s future. Although she will be faced with challenges, one such challenge will be being away from her child if and when she is deployed. It is a big challenge for all parents in the Coast Guard, he said.
It is a long-standing feature of the military, and the Coast Guard Commandant’s policy says that regardless of personal situation, all Coast Guard members must be available for worldwide assignments. Meaning, if a servicemember is unable to fulfill an assignment, they are at risk of being discharged - a very real concern for military parents.
Fortunately for Moentman, serving at a medical clinic allows her to have a stable schedule. Although far from her home and family, she said she is grateful not to be stationed even farther away. However, this duty assignment may be short lived because she is on a waiting list to receive the health services technician training necessary to advance her career.
After Moentman completes the 113-day course in Petaluma, Calif., she and her daughter could be stationed at any available land unit in the country, aboard a cutter or even overseas.
“Uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges,” said Moentman. “As a new mom, I want to be organized, and I want to plan ahead. I can’t do that because I do not know where we will be even a year from now. I think uncertainty weighs heavily on most servicemembers, especially parents.”
If a parent gets deployed or receives orders to a unit that would make caring for his or her child impossible, he or she has the option to avoid separation by enacting a family care plan. A family care plan is a necessary childcare arrangement intended to help military parents fulfill a duty obligation while someone else cares for his or her child.
“My parents are my designated caretakers, but if they had to take Delayna I would be devastated,” said Moentman. “I can’t imagine being away from her, and she would be heartbroken too. I am all she has. I am all she knows.”
Moentman said despite missing her family and having no personal time, she is thankful for the support she receives from her shipmates and programs offered by the Coast Guard. She recently joined an online community where she has made friends with other military women who are in similar situations and others who offer their support. Moentman also participates in a Coast Guard subsidy program to help with her child care expenses, which she says she is tremendously grateful for.
By combining these resources with her own determination, optimism and daily prayer, Moentman said she is empowered to be the best mother and Coast Guardsman she can be.