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Motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes. Being a military mom, however, comes with a unique set of challenges.

You could be a service member and a mother, the mother of a service member, or married to a service member with children — and some mothers are all three. It’s not easy, and it often requires sacrifice, heartache, and a special kind of love. For some, it means that you sacrifice time away from your family, single parenting, or knowing your child is putting him or herself in harm’s way for the sake of your country. For others, military motherhood is late hours, living by the phone or computer, missed holidays and birthdays, or not being able to tuck your baby in at night. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Task & Purpose asked military moms what qualities make up military mothers. Here’s what they said.

Courage

courage

“I’m looking forward to the day that my service teaches my children about accountability, tolerance, persistence, perseverance, integrity, service to others, responsibility, sacrifice, honor, pride, courage, commitment, and so much more than could ever been written here.”

— Stephanie J. Anderson, 33, Washington

It takes immense courage to leave your children at home, or watch your spouse or child deploy in service to our nation. You know the military can be a lifelong commitment of putting yourself in harm’s way, or that your spouse or child has a dangerous job. For that reason, military moms have courage in spades.

Strength

strength

“You have to be strong, a teacher, a counselor, a friend, a mom, sometimes even the dad. Sometimes we cook, we play games, and have parties. Sometimes we are the shoulder to cry on, the ears to listen, the one to help in times of trouble for another family. We support our spouses and stay as strong as we can. We do all we can to keep teaching our children, to keep our family together and strong and to show our love and appreciation for the one who signed his or her name on the line.”

— Dorothy Lee, 47, Washington

Being a military mom can bring out strengths you never knew you had. You carry your whole family, sometimes other families, and sometimes the weight of the country on your back. It’s a heavy lift, but there is no one better suited for it than you.

Pride

pride

“I have two children who are both serving in the military. Being a military mom means you are always afraid and at the same time more proud than you’ve ever been. Pride and fear become one.”

— Tonya Poirier, 44, Michigan

As a military mom, you are proud always. You proudly serve, proudly support, and proudly put away your fears and sadness because you understand what you, your spouse, or your children are fighting for. You have so much pride for your country, the flag, and the American values that you represent.

Willingness to sacrifice

sacrifice

“Being a military mom makes your sacrifices for your country even harder, but so worth it if your kids get to grow up with their freedom. Having to miss out on things with your kids makes you appreciate them more when you are home with them and to not take things for granted.”

— Jenna Russell, 29, Oklahoma

Military moms understand sacrifice in a way that no one else does. You give up time at home, time with your spouse, or time with your service member children for the good of everyone else. Every time you give something up, you recognize that it’s for a cause unlike any other.

Patience

patience

“Being a military mom means not taking any moment for granted. Most days are long; showing up early and stay late, working out til exhaustion, 100+ emails, reports to type, someone yelling at you for something you didn’t do and then a long commute home. But as you open the door the sound of little feet running toward you, yelling, ‘Mama, mama!’ makes your heart swell and your day starts anew.”

— Christina MacKelvey, 42, Colorado

You spend so much time waiting. As a military mother, you know you can spend months away from home, waiting for your spouse’s deployment to end, or standing by for your service member children to return home. Sometimes you spend hours in transit, working late-night duty, or waiting by the phone or Skype just hear your children’s voices. But it’s all worth it when you know what’s being fought for. Patience. It’s a virtue military mothers have in abundance.

Perseverance

perseverence

“It means showing my girls how to chase their dreams. It means searching for a place to pump on TDY. It means wondering if you’re doing it all right. It means smiling as my daughter pretends to be mommy in my combat boots. It means their tears and sometimes mine too.”

— Karis Miles, 30, Texas

You are always fighting a war as a military mom, whether it’s at home or abroad. You have to lace up your combat boots, literally or figuratively, because military motherhood is sometimes a very dirty job. But like anything else that is difficult, it’s also incredibly rewarding.

Fierce love

fierce love

“I am a veteran, a mother of an active-duty serviceman, and a former Marine wife. Being a military mom is a unique job. In my varied experience, being a military mom consistently means sacrifice, commitment, and understanding. It requires the ability to balance the needs of many against our own needs and desires. A military mom holds the home front, supports the cause and offers unyielding love and understanding in the face of the extreme.”

— Stacy Barrows, 44, Tennessee

Fierce love is probably the greatest necessity of a military mother. It is what keeps a military family together no matter what. As a military mom, sometimes you have to make your love span hundreds or thousands of miles — whether it’s you, your spouse, or your son or daughter serving. There is nothing stronger than the love of a military mother. It’s invincible.

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