In 1995, I PCS'd to Fort Hood, Texas. For non-military people that means the Army moved me there, where I would live and work until the Army decided to move me someplace else. The hard part about being in the military is all of the moving, because, often, people who were influential are left behind ... or they leave sooner than you do.
Before I lived in Texas, I lived in Germany, and while there I met this amazing female sergeant. She was smart and sassy, a single mom and an E-5 in an MOS (military occupational specialty) that didn't do a lot of promoting. Promotions in the military are based on a numbers system, and basically, the Department of the Army figures that it needs a certain number of people in a certain military specialty and of those people x need to be each rank. From E-1 to E-4, promotions are based solely on time in grade and time in service. The highest rank possible without earning points is E-4, which is a Specialist in non-combat specialties and a Corporal for combat arms MOSs.
In order to be promoted beyond E-4, one must earn promotion points. Points are earned a number of ways: basic readiness training (APFT scores and weapons qualifications); awards received; military training courses; and civilian training. Because I had a college degree when I entered the military, I had maxed out my civilian education points. I always did pretty well on my physical fitness tests (usually maxing out the two mile run and the push-up portions), and I earned points for weapons qualifications. PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) was worth points and was a requirement before a promotion would be considered.
A certain number of points was required before soldiers could even be considered for promotion and that number of points was determined by the number of people needed for that MOS in the next rank. For most of my military career, promotion points for my MOS remained at the maximum level, which was nearly impossible to achieve. I never did, and by the time the points dropped, I knew I wasn't reenlisting, and so I didn't even ask to go to the Promotion Board.
All that to say that getting promoted in my MOS was no easy thing, and the fact that she, a fairly young female soldier, had done it, spoke volumes as to the kind of driven and motivated person she was.
At any rate, I had this sergeant in Germany who was an E-5, and she was everything I wanted to be in a soldier - hardcore, but fair, and smart and savvy. She never shirked her duty, and she knew her job. I really admired her.
We both moved around the Battalion to different jobs, and I lost contact with her, and then, I left Germany, and figured I probably wouldn't see her again.
Fast forward two years, and I'm at my new duty station in Texas. We're having a company party, and there she is, with another sergeant I remembered from Germany. They had dated, and finally (apparently) tied the knot. She had ETSd (which means she got out), and they had a new baby. She was a stay-at-home mom.
I didn't grow up in a generation of women who stayed home. We went to college so that we could get jobs and have careers and be those Super Moms who "brought home the bacon, fried it up in a pan ... yada, yada." And, indeed, as a young adult, that's what I did, but it wasn't good for me. I was always good at my job, and I am a very good mother, but I wasn't very good at doing both - at the same time - with any level of proficiency.
So, after I met and married Deus Ex Machina and we started talking about a family, I became reacquainted with my former boss, and she was a stay-at-home Mom. I considered, probably for the first time in my life, that being a stay-at-home Mom could be something I could do. I could.
A year or so later, I did, and sixteen years later, I still am.
I have been a stay-at-home/work-at-home Mom since 1998, and I'm not sure I would have even considered it a possibility for me, if it hadn't been for that NCO, who had made a huge impression on me as a soldier, and an even greater impression on me as a woman, who chose to be an at-home mother, even though she could have been anything she wanted to be.
I am so grateful that I have been blessed with the opportunity to be home with my children and to work at home doing what I do for the amazing people I work for, because if not for those two things, I might not be homeschooling (and from everything I read about what's happening in schools these days, I can't imagine my children there); without this reality of my life, I might not have discovered my desire to homestead my property, and I would not have felt the need to write my books, thus, missing the opportunity to satisfy my life-long goal of being a published author.
I am thankful for such amazing opportunities ... and to that sergeant in Germany who showed me what's possible.