On my first Mother’s Day, I jumped off a 34 ft. tower. This isn’t what most mothers do on Mother’s Day, I know. But I am Mexican-American. In our culture, Mother’s Day is celebrated the Friday before it’s celebrated here in the United States. So for me, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and Mother’s Day are usually celebrated the same day.
So that day I was strapped into a harness, a front pack, a helmet, and a ruck experiencing my first official Spouse’s Day at Fort Bragg, NC. The strangeness of this experience made me think so much of my my mother and grandmother I called them during lunch. I wished them a “Feliz Día de las Madres,” and they both wished me a Happy First Mother’s Day.
In our family, we are willing to make a jump when it is necessary. My maternal grandfather left my grandmother, mother, and my uncle in Northern Mexico in the early 1970’s and immigrated to Eastern Texas for work.
A few months later the family was reunited after my grandfather prepared a home and my mom began integrating into “American” life. A couple years later my mother and father met and made their home in the same town and began their American family.
My sisters and I were raised in a strict Mexican-Catholic home following the traditions of our culture. For example, we were not allowed to wear make-up until the age of 15. We were to complete all of our sacraments in the Catholic religion because we were expected to marry in the church. It was expected that we would not leave our home until we were married.
My husband and I began dating three months before he left for basic training in 1996. He was born to be in the Army. In grade school when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he said, “A soldier.”
We dated through his first tour of duty, where he was stationed with the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, NC. He came home as often as possible and we “dated” even though my parents did not approve of the long distance relationship.
Our relationship grew with the long letters we would exchange almost daily and after three years and three weeks he was honorably discharged and came home to start a new life with me. After four years of dating, he and his parents came to our home and asked my parents for my hand in marriage.
Since he had already proposed, my mother wouldn’t allow me to wear my engagement ring until his parents came and asked for my hand. After the pomp and circumstance, the wedding happened a year later.
My husband was a full time student; he graduated with honors and struggled with what he wanted to do after college. In my mind I always believed he wanted to go back into the Army. We made the compromise that if he re-enlisted he change his MOS so that he would be able to further his career after military life.
In 2005, he went to AIT while I stayed behind working full time and was pregnant with our first child. We would reunite after AIT, for the beginning of our military journey as a family.
Not long after we arrived at Fort Bragg, we were informed of an impending 15 month deployment and pre-deployment planning began. I made the decision to get involved with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) so I could learn as much as possible.
As a new military spouse, I wanted to be well informed regarding deployment readiness, and that’s where I learned about the Spouse’s Day activity; Soldier for a Day and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it. I was very excited about the event, only to realize that it was also the same day that my family celebrates Mother’s Day.
I had the opportunity to celebrate being a military spouse with fellow spouses and a new mom with my soldier and our son, all in the same day. Truly, it was a day I will never forget; I like to think of our life now as the emotions I felt when I stepped off the ledge: scared, giddy, fulfilled, and excited to see what’s next for me and our family. I our family, we jump we are willing to make a jump when necessary.
Candy Olivares is the mother of two boys, an Army wife, a wanna be writer-runner-chef and just lover of all things family-life and fun. She blogs about her military life at Candypolooza.