[caption id=“attachment_7238” align=“alignright” width=“500”] A volunteer carries a new car seat for Amanda Avant as she leaves the Bundles and Boots Baby Shower hosted by the USO of Missouri and Operation Homefront.             Army photo by Brittany Carlson.[/caption]

It’s been a year of big changes and long separations for Amanda and Michael Avant.

After getting married, 19-year-old Amanda stayed home with her family in Arkansas while her husband, Army Cpl. Michael Avant, lived in the singles barracks at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

Two weeks before Michael deployed to Afghanistan, they found out Amanda was pregnant.  They decided she should move into family housing on the base so she could prepare for her husband’s return in June and the baby’s arrival in August.  She made the move, all by herself, earlier this year.

“It’s going to be different– my husband coming home and me being eight months pregnant.  Last time he saw me I had no belly, and now I have this huge belly, and also I’m emotional, so he’s going to come home to an emotional wife!”

Avant says her husband is upset that he’s missing so many milestones.

“He’s never been in our house before.  He’s never seen it.  He’s never been to a doctor’s visit. He’s really nervous about it, but he’s excited.  He says that he’s proud of me, just being a regular Army girlfriend to being an Army wife and a mommy and moving on post all by myself.”

Lisa Yenter, wife of the commanding general at Fort Leonard Wood, thinks it’s important for young soldiers’ wives to make friendships and connections as soon as they arrive on post.

“Plug into the community,” she says, “Get them plugged in so they can navigate through the military system.”

That’s why she wholeheartedly supports events like last weekend’s Bundles and Boots Baby Shower.

The USO of Missouri and Operation Homefront hosted the all-day party, where 125 new or expecting moms mingled over displays with parenting information, baby supplies, books and food. There was even a “craving” table loaded with pickles, ice cream and other goodies for the pregnant palate.

“Every pregnant woman got four packages of diapers, and everybody got a free car seat—brand new, still in the box,” says Avant, “It was really neat.”

Soldiers helped the moms carry out their boxes and bags, and certified experts were available to install the car seats.

“When you’re far from home and you don’t know many people and you’re going to have a baby, maybe you just don’t have that baby shower,” says Yenter.  “But every baby should be showered.”

Meantime, Avant is storing all her baby items in the nursery, but she’s waiting for Michael to come home before she sets anything up.

“I’m not putting up the crib because I figure my husband would want to do that,” she says.  “I don’t want to set it all up without him being there.  Because he’s so sad that he’s missing out on everything.”

 Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  Join us in wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all our military moms and families with loved ones far from home. - Malini Wilkes, USO Director of Story Development