Veteran’s Day never meant much to me before I became one; now, it’s a special day for me to connect with other veterans. Every story is unique. So, in honor of Veteran’s Day, I – an Army veteran who served 18 months in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom – am going to interview another Kansas City Moms Blog contributor who also served. We talk about the unique challenges that women veterans face as well as motherhood and its impact on us.
Steph: What’s your name, how long did you serve and where?
Tia: My name is Tia Moore; when I served, it was Estes. I was a Specialist in the Army Reserves for 8 years and deployed in 2008-2009 to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was an 88M (truck driver) and my unit drove HETs (Heavy Equipment Transport System); we hauled tanks up and down the Iraqi desert. I can tell you that driving an HET hauling a tank from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait all the way to Mosul, Iraq takes about two weeks. The HET’s top speed is only 45 mph so it takes a long time, especially with all the issues you run into out on the road.
Steph: Like what issues? Flat tires? Someone’s gotta pee? IED? Small arms fire?
Tia: A ton of flat tires. One time, a truck lost its brakes on a bridge over the Tigris. Fortunately, we did get a lot of time to pee while we were getting the convoy back up and running. Luckily no IEDs, though.
Steph: You’re lucky you didn’t get blown up. You were sitting ducks!
Steph: What is the most useful skill you gained in the military?
Tia: The most useful skill I gained is physical fitness. I know from experience that push-ups, sit-ups, and running two miles are good exercise. I was in the best shape of my life after AIT. I’ve never quite been to that level since, but fitness is still an important part of my life.
Steph: What was the best part about serving in the military?
Tia: The camaraderie was probably the best part. When you’re away from home, whether it’s over two weeks in the middle of Kansas or fourteen months overseas, you can’t survive without that bond you develop with people you trust. When you aren’t around your civilian friends and family, the Army is all you have and those connections are what keep you going.
Steph: I agree! Do you miss those relationships? Do you maintain contact with any of them?
Tia: A few of them, but we don’t stay in touch, really. One of them is my fiancee’s best friend – that’s how we met!
Steph: What’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever asked you in regards to your service?
Tia: Someone once asked me if they have bathrooms overseas!
Steph: Everyone has to pee. It’s the beautiful thing that unites us! I once got asked how many animals I had killed. I was like “you mean for food? Or for fun?” Hahaha … like my Army experience was a Bear Grylls episode.
Steph: Have you discussed your service with your children? Do they know you were in the Army and its significance?
Tia: I feel like my son understands; he’s almost eleven and my daughter is seven. My son was a year and a half when I left for Iraq so I don’t know if he remembers my being gone or if all he knows is from the stories. Sometimes they’ll ask about the trucks I drove or how hot it was, but I don’t think they grasp it.
Steph: It was so HOT, especially with 50 pounds of gear on.
Steph: Do you think you are different in your parenting due to your experiences in Iraq?
Tia: I really do. Missing a year of my son’s life when he was so young was the most challenging, heart-wrenching experience of my entire life. I really take the time to pay attention to all the little things. Their seemingly unimportant ramblings, every picture that’s drawn for me, every hug, every smile, every single thing I missed when I was gone. I soak it all in as much as possible.
Steph: I totally get it. I had a Sergeant have to leave her baby and at the time, I wasn’t a mom so I had no idea the pain she must have felt. Looking back, I wonder if I could have done the same thing.
Steph: Will you allow or encourage your kids to pursue the military when they grow up?
Tia: I don’t know if allow is the right word; they’ll be adults if/when they decide to join. I can’t say I would encourage it. I’m glad I did it. I feel like I needed that in my life then, but there are things I wish I hadn’t encountered. Complications from my first pregnancy weren’t handled well. Anyone who has been in the military knows the importance of paperwork. I was dealing with a lot of stress from my health issues – paperwork got filed incorrectly and I ended up getting screwed. I spent the last few years of my career trying to fix the clerical error and after that experience, and the birth of now 2 children, I was unwilling to reenlist. On the plus side, if my children encountered the same issues, I’d be able to guide them through it.
Steph: How will you celebrate Veteran’s Day with your family?
Tia: I’m not really the type to celebrate Veteran’s Day. I’m proud that I served, and I had a lot of great and memorable experiences, but I wasn’t treated well. As a female veteran, there’s a different level of dealing with it. Sometimes people think I’m lying about my service because I was a veteran at twenty-three. A twenty-three year old woman is not exactly what comes to mind when people think of the word “veteran.” It can be difficult to find yourself in a position where you’re arguing with people who don’t believe you served or don’t believe you sacrificed as much, simply because you’re a woman. Its hard to hear that and still find pride and contentment in your accomplishments. I don’t want a pat on the back or a free meal, I just want the acknowledgement I feel I’ve earned.
Steph: I’ve had the same experiences when I talk about my military career. I feel like I’m not what they pictured. For the record – I do believe you worked hard. I know you gave your all and I know you sacrificed more than most people are willing to sacrifice. And if I saw you wearing an Iraq Veteran hat, I’d give you a high five!