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I’ve been an Army spouse for almost 22 years, and I’ve been an Army mom for a little more than 22 hours at the time of this writing.

At least that’s how long it’s been since I left my daughter to be transported from the Houston MEPS station to basic training.

For 22 years, supporting service members and their families has become as natural as breathing to me. We’ve invited hundreds of service members into our home over the past two decades for holidays, meals, and sometimes just because they needed a family for a while.

For 22 years, I’ve loved my role as a surrogate mom and friend to young troops.

Now, I hope someone will do the same for my service member—my daughter.

I hope she knows the love, camaraderie, and wonder that comes from being invited into a home as a stranger and leaving as a family member.

I hope she knows how to trust the unit she’s assigned to and be “all in” so she can be supported.

I hope those assigned to lead her know how to lead and, more importantly, how to care about their followers.

I hope she has a battle buddy to watch her six in training and a cadre of comrades who want to share adventures with her.

I hope she’s watched her father carefully cultivate his own career with integrity and honor.

I hope she wants to become the same kind of service member he is.

I hope she’s pushed to be the best she can be by men and women who want to mentor those in their charge.

I hope she makes it through basic training with confidence and without injury.

I hope she looks around and sees opportunity where she couldn’t see it last year.

I hope she doesn’t regret giving up college life for combat boots.

But most of all, I hope she finds the same support we’ve always tried to give young service members just starting out.

I hope there’s another Army spouse in her path who has a heart for troops, especially when they’re far from home.

I hope she finds a surrogate mom of her own.

After being embedded in military life and still in the thick of it, I know that true military life is not always “photo op” homecomings and glamorous locations. In fact, those things constitute very little of our lives.

We’ve been seasoned by numerous combat tours, moves, and hardships; we’ve been sweetened by all the family, friendships, and blessings along the journey.

Our lifestyle isn’t heroic nor perfect. We have unethical people in our ranks, just like every other profession. It requires a lot of patience and emotional intelligence to serve in the military for the long haul.

Like many of my fellow Army spouses, I’ve “seen behind the curtain,” and that can be disconcerting as you watch your child enter that same world.

In the weeks before she left, I hoped to have some long talks and impart whatever wisdom I could, but I was overshadowed by her dad and our family friend who’ve been physically and mentally training her.

They ran with her, yelled at her (if I hear the phrase “pain is temporary” one more time…), and made her complete tests and tasks to help her reach her potential.

But, as she got on that bus, I was able to slip her an envelope so I could try and reach her heart. I had a long list, but I really wanted to tell her three things.

I told her:

1. Own your choice. You made a good one. Don’t quit. Don’t give up, and don’t ever let regret rule your life. Anyone can choose to  go to college, join the Army, get married, or start a family. That part’s easy. Owning your choice and living a life for your choice is the only true satisfaction. The rest is just Instagram posts and empty memories. Own the life you chose for yourself, and we’ll never be disappointed.

2. Let go of emotional baggage. Stop thinking about what you don’t have, and count your blessings. We’re all given free will. Our choices may lead us to difficult paths, but we have the power to choose. Choose friends and roads wisely.

3. You are loved. You are loved more than you know, and you’ve always been loved. We’re carrying your heart within ours and praying for you. Make sure you remember to pray as well, because at the end of the day, your relationship with God is what will sustain you.

As I wait for that first phone call, I can only hope that she read my letter and is already embracing the Army lifestyle.


  • Kathleen Palmer

    Kathleen is an educator and project seeker from Texas. In her 28 years as an Army wife, Kathleen has taught and coached in six different states and Germany. Kathleen has a big heart for both Army families and soldiers having served as a Soldier for Life counselor in both Germany and Korea. Her favorite part of Army life is her acquired community of battle buddies! Kathleen loves words (both speaking and writing them) and has contributed to AWN, NMFA, The Fort Hood Sentinel, The Army Spouse Handbook, Inside Abu Ghraib, Memoirs of Two US Military Intelligence Officers, and The Army War College at Carlisle. Her favorite writing piece about being an Army wife is “The Lady in the Grey Suit” which was published in 2015 in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors (Vol.3). You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, or on her website, Life Is Messy, Love Big. Just like Kathleen, the site is a WORK in Progress! She also currently serves as Mission: Milspouse Director of Content.


  1. Aimee

    Another fabulous read that gets right to the heart of it!

  2. Aura

    Great advice for any child launching or relaunching!


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The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

If you’ve read any of my blog submissions on Mission Milspouse lately, you’ll likely see a pattern where I have been mostly writing about what I’ve learned being a military spouse for the past twenty years but in presented in slightly different ways. In addition to...

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