Mothers are normally military minorities. Sure, women in general are gaining more recognition in the military, but surely many people forget that a large majority of these women are mothers as well as national heroes. However, balancing these two identities is hardly ever easy. One military mother, Jessica Scott, shares her struggles on in an article called “Mother in the Military: Punishing Mothers Who Serve”.

Before she was a mother, Scott recalls, her schedule was very flexible. She was able to perform her military duties by day, and then attend college later on into the night. However, having kids drastically changed her schedule and priorities. Suddenly, she had to plan her life around daycare schedules, child illnesses, and other problems that civilian mothers juggle on a daily basis. And while it should be considered valiant for women like Scott to try and balance motherhood with military servitude, she says that “not all military mothers are as lucky”.

By this statement, Scott refers to “[when] more and more single and divorced parents serve in the military, there are a growing number of military members, often single or divorced mothers, who face court battles to retain or regain custody of their children upon redeployment”.

That’s right—Scott says that military mothers are being forced to choose between their service and their children. Scott says that if she chose the military life over her children, she feared that her children would feel neglected and unimportant. However, Scott did not want to abandon her duties and her country, either. She, like approximately 30,000 other military moms, was stuck in a major predicament.

Unfortunately, not much of a happy ending exists. Scott recounts all of the custody battles and civilian court visits that she almost had to face with her own marriage and children, since she ultimately chose to continue serving in the military, yet with no small amount of guilt. These custody battles, bouts of guilt, and emotionally tumultuous preparations for the possibilities that these mothers may never see their children again after deployment, are serious causes for stress to develop, especially PTSD.

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

How can mothers cope? It is highly encouraged that combat veterans receive either (or both) talk therapy/ psychiatric medication to treat these symptoms. However, veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through the VA, since reports released by CNN in 2012 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. Therefore, ailing soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD might want to consider consulting outside organizations to rehabilitate their physical and mental health, as well as help make themselves more competitive in the job market.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.