As you grow inside me, I have been thinking more and more of what it means to be a mommy in the U.S. Army.
Let me be the first to tell you, though, that we have a rough road ahead of us, kiddo. The life of a soldier isn't an easy one.
Already in the seven years that I've been in the Army, I've spent a lot of time away from home. It's very rare that I get to spend holidays with my family. And more and more I see my friends and comrades departing on deployments that send them far away from their families for extended lengths of time. And I have a feeling that life isn't going to get any easier, sweetie.
And, although we have been given a reprieve of sorts while you continue to make my belly expand, I have a feeling it won't be too long after you are born that I, too, will be asked to go away--again.
It seems, my dear, that there are too many nasty people in this world that feel like they need to oppress, suffocate and stamp out human pride and freedom among their fellow man.
Why, sweetie? I don't know. But these men seem to be everywhere. Every day when I turn on the news, there's a different man in a different part of the world that's making life unbearable for others.
As a soldier, I have given my word that if the call comes for me to do my part in making the world a better place to live, I'll go. No hesitation. No questions asked.
That call was a lot easier to answer when I didn't have you--when I just had myself to think about. Now, as a future parent, I can see why some single mommies choose to get out of the Army, but my resolve is true.
I know baby, this is going to be hard for you to understand. You're going to want your mommy and she'll be far, far away.
But, take comfort in the fact that there are going to be other children that will not only be missing their mommies but daddies too.
Many families have gone down this road before us. We won't be the first. And we certainly won't be the last. So, if they can do it, surely we can do it too.
While we are together, though, I promise to hold you a bit longer than necessary, read the story about the purple dinosaur as many times as you want, fix you favorite food for dinner, kiss you a lot, hold your hand and take as many photos of you as possible. Memories of these things will have to sustain us while we are apart.
Just take heart that being an Army baby won't be all bad. There will be sweets to go with the sour. You'll get to travel and see other cultures that other kids won't get to see. There will always be food on the table and clothes on your back. If you get sick, you will always have medicine to make you feel better.
Some children in the world don't even have shoes. I know, because I've seen them.
So, as you grow stronger and bigger inside me, I can only hope and pray that you remember the lessons I will teach while we are together and that they will help you when we are apart: Always share your cookies, never call names, remember to say "I'm sorry" if you are wrong, wash behind your ears and brush your teeth, and say "I love you" every chance you get.
Lastly, don't forget to pray for Mommy and the other parents that often have to be so far away from their little ones. We don't want to leave, but sometimes duty calls.
Update: I wrote this letter to my unborn child in Oct. 2003. Prior to her birth I spent 14 months (July 2002-August 2003) in the Middle East during the kick-off and main portion of "Operation Enduring Freedom." After returning to the United States I requested to be stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska near my hometown of Eagle River. I was granted my request. Lyssa Bree McBride was born Feb. 6, 2004. She was 8 pounds, 12 ounces and over 22 inches long. She is now 7 months old. I've been home just over a year. I received a call last week from my assignment manager, who told me to prepare and to get ready to "pack my bags" that I was going to either Iraq or Afghanistan next Febuary. I was supposed to be stationed in Alaska till 2006.