Military Moms Deployed to South Korea, Far from Their Kids and Home, Find Comfort at the USO

By Jieun Song

Being a mom is difficult in many ways, and being a military mom is tougher still. But being a military mom deployed away from your family on the front lines is the toughest of all.

While many American military families are stationed in South Korea together, service members who are deployed to Camp Casey, located near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), must go alone, leaving their families behind in the U.S., as Camp Casey is an “unaccompanied tour.”

Camp Casey is also one of the most isolated and remote locations on the peninsula, with the added pressure of being only 13 miles from the DMZ – the heavily-guarded strip of land that divides North Korea and South Korea.

The presence of U.S. troops along the DMZ serves as a deterrence for conflict between these two countries, in partnership with Republic of Korea forces, and aims to establish security and balance to the region. But it can also be an incredibly stressful job, especially when separated from your loved ones back home.

That’s why USO Camp Casey has always been committed to supporting the great warriors training along freedom’s frontier by keeping them connected to family, home and country.

Military Mothers Face Challenges on the Front Lines

USO Camp Casey Center Manager Jieun Song explained that when we think of “Mother’s Day” in the military, our first instinct might be to think of military spouses. However, she noted, there are also numerous female service members who are mothers – and especially at Camp Casey. And many of these military moms do not have the opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day, since they are apart from their children while they serve in South Korea.

U.S. Army Spc. Consuelo Sanchez, a regular at the USO Camp Casey Center, shared her own personal experience with being apart from her children – and how the USO has helped her bridge the distance.

“I have two sons, Jayrald and John, back in the States. When I deployed away from my family this time, I didn’t have internet connection in my barracks, so I was looking for some information on Korea since everything is new to me,” Consuelo said.

U.S. Army Spc. Consuelo Sanchez is deployed to Camp Casey, along the DMZ in South Korea, far from her children. To stay connected to her kids, she uses the USO’s Wi-Fi to regularly chat with them back home. | Photo credit USO Photo

“The first place I could think of was the USO. The staff and volunteers were extremely kind when I visited the center. I was finally able to talk to my children by using their free Wi-Fi, and I enjoyed my time checking a variety of local cultural opportunities while having snacks in their lounge. It made me [feel] at home!”

According to the Blue Star Families’ 2023 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 45% of active-duty military families cited “amount of time away from family as a result of military service” as their #2 issue with military life. Being separated from one’s children can be especially difficult during deployment, and that separation is all the more apparent on days like Mother’s Day.

How the USO Celebrates Deployed Military Moms on Mother’s Day

In May 2023, in recognition of Military Appreciation Month and Mother’s Day, USO Camp Casey will recognize these active-duty military moms who have sacrificed in dedication to their duties while stationed away from home through a celebration of our 3rd Annual Military Mom’s Workshop event on May 12, 2023.

The Military Mom’s Workshop welcomes military mothers who might be struggling to balance their roles as both a mother and a service member. As a part of the program, the USO invited Bernadette Wright – the Risk Reduction Program coordinator from the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP), who also happens to be an active USO Camp Casey volunteer and retired U.S. Army soldier – to talk about stress management and to provide some tips on self-care. Through her various roles, Bernadette offers other military moms valuable insights and encouragement to help them cope with the demands of their daily lives.

“Military mothers play a critical role in serving our country, balancing the responsibilities of motherhood and soldiering,” Bernadette said. “Being a military mom comes with its own set of struggles and exhaustion, but as you navigate life in service, know you are seen and loved.”

Photo credit USO Photo

Bernadette Wright, an Army veteran, USO volunteer and the Risk Reduction Program coordinator of the U.S. Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) serves as a mentor to military moms currently deployed to South Korea.

Bernadette also explained that these challenges of motherhood and serving in the military have been made slightly less difficult thanks to the support of the local community – and the USO.

“If there is one thing our nation’s military moms can count on, is Mother’s Day in this location, and the support of the USO. While the families across the country are thinking of ways to make this Mother’s Day special for their moms, the USO has made it possible for everyone to show that we have not forgotten the moms who won’t get to see their children, husbands, or possibly even hear their voices when they wanted to because they are sacrificing for our freedom,” Bernadette said.

“So, it is very important to host a military mom’s appreciation event and treat those moms with a day of pampering. We hope that this event will help to relieve some of the stress that these mothers face and provide them with the resources they need to recharge.”

Aside from connectivity to their loved ones back home, or access to a comfortable community space at the local USO center, the USO aims to also offer support to these military mothers through programs and events geared specifically to them. Aside from Mother’s Day celebrations, this includes programs such as USO Special Delivery: Presented by Johnson’s, which offers expectant service members and military spouses with baby shower events around the world, providing a touch of home and normalcy for moms-to-be who are often separated from their families, friends and traditional support networks during their pregnancies.

Photo credit USO Photo

Through USO Special Delivery® presented by Johnson’s, military parents-to-be around the globe can take advantage of these USO-hosted baby showers alongside other expectant military parents and military spouses.

“Military moms are crucial members of the military community, and since many military moms cannot enjoy their Mother’s Day back home, we would like to recognize these deserving working mothers who must endure long periods of separation from their loved ones,” Jieun said.

Not only do these events celebrate their roles as mothers and service members, but it also allows them to bond with their fellow female service members.

Photo credit USO Photo

Service member moms at USO Camp Casey’s Military Moms Workshop in 2022.

At the upcoming event, the USO will have an open discussion with Bernadette Wright as a guest mentor. After the open discussion, the USO will offer craft activities and brunch for the mothers to enjoy. Additionally, all the participants will receive a self-care kit to promote rest and relaxation. This gesture is meant to show these military moms how much they are appreciated and to encourage them to take some time to pamper and take care of themselves.

“The brunch event and self-care kit are just a small token of appreciation for all that they do,” said Jieun.

Consuelo recently signed up for the upcoming Mother’s Day event, explaining how much it meant to her that the USO will be celebrating military moms deployed to Camp Casey, and how much she was looking forward to participating.

“I have a team member who welcomed a newborn baby boy last December, and as this is her first Mother’s Day, I will bring her to enjoy this celebration at the USO together,” Consuelo said. “Thank you so much for thinking of us!”

The dual hats that military moms wear are a combination of selflessness and courage, and they are the ones that constantly go above and beyond. Military moms tackle challenges that sometimes go unnoticed, and their sacrifices deserve our attention and appreciation.

Service member moms at USO Camp Casey’s Military Moms Workshop in 2022.

Throughout this event, USO is expecting to highlight the contributions that military moms have made while stationed away from home. We will recognize the importance of supporting military moms and providing them with the resources they need to thrive, and hope that this event will provide them with the opportunity to take a well-deserved break and be treated for all that they do.

As the history of women in the military clearly shows, female service members are a force to be reckoned with – and the USO continues to stand behind all members of our Armed Forces. These moms will be extremely happy and surprised to receive something on this day apart from their children and loved ones, but USO will be sure to successfully put a smile on everyone’s face.

To every mom who makes sacrifices for their family, thank you for all you do. From all USO staff and volunteers, we wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!

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