New Book Provides Advice and Comfort for Moms (and Dads) of Military Service Members
By Michelle Hutchinson
Heroes come in many forms. One of my heroes is Elaine Brye. She’d probably wince if she knew I thought of her that way, as she is a very modest woman, but for the last four years, I have communicated with Elaine via an email listserv for parents of children enrolled at the United States Naval Academy (USNA). She volunteered as one of the listserv’s moderators for 14 years, dispensing valuable advice about watching one’s child undergo the college-that’s-not-a-college experience—the four-year transformation from high school graduate to commissioned officer in the United States Navy or Marine Corps.
I finally had the chance to meet Elaine in person in May, when we were both at USNA, she to sign her new book, Be Safe, Love Mom: A Military Mom’s Stories of Courage, Comfort, and Surviving Life on the Home Front, and both of us to enjoy the pomp and circumstance of Commissioning Week, as she had a nephew graduating, and I, a daughter. Elaine’s nephew is not her first relative to graduate from USNA. She has had two sons and a daughter receive their commissions through the Academy, and a third son received a commission after completing Army ROTC at a civilian college.
After rushing over to Elaine’s book signing from the Commissioning Week Marine Corps family orientation briefing, I patiently waited my turn in line to meet the author. When I reached the front, she greeted me by name before I had the chance to introduce myself. She recognized me from my Facebook photo. That’s Elaine, always making personal connections.
When she heard me mention the event I had just left, she said, “I was a pile of mush when I came out of there.” Oh, Elaine, your words of wisdom on the listserv (and more recently on Facebook’s USNA Parent Community) have prevented thousands of moms from becoming a pile of mush over the last 14 years.
Now, with the release of Be Safe, Love Mom, the wider audience of parents of active duty service members can benefit from Elaine’s advice on dealing with deployments, military communication blockages/outages, the absence of active duty family members during significant family events, the roles of our children’s spouses, and much more.
With a daughter who is a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps, the chapter that resonated most with me was “From Ballet Slippers to Combat Boots.” It includes great advice on resisting the urge to protect our female offspring. Elaine shared with me that that was the most difficult chapter to write, for several reasons. First, her daughter’s deployment to Afghanistan was very unusual in that she went completely alone and traveled around the country. Her only accountability was a twice weekly call-in session to her commanding officer in the states. Elaine was incredibly worried about her daughter’s safety, and writing about that time brought all those memories to the surface
Secondly, the chapter was difficult to write because, Elaine says, the role of women in the military “is very politically charged these days…It is hard to navigate classic minefields and get people to focus on basic truths. There are no front lines in battle anymore. Women are doing all kinds of work that men do. And with proper preparation and training they can do just about anything. I wanted it to be sound advice for mothers and daughters without some of the hyperbole that can accompany the issue of military sexual trauma. I worked really hard for that to come through.”
As you might imagine from a woman as giving as Elaine, her book does not mark the end of her advice and her support of our military men, women, and their families. You can gather even more great information from her blog and other pages at http://besafelovemom.com/.
And, as an editor, I would be remiss if I did not thank Elaine for acknowledging the work of her own editor, Emily Lavelle, about whom Elaine said, “Emily, we appreciate all of your suggestions, even the ones that hurt!”
If you have read Be Safe, Love Mom, have feedback, or want to provide your own advice as the parent of a child in the military, click on “Leave a comment” below to share your thoughts.