With Veteran’s Day coming up this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a veteran for this month’s Inspiring Mom. So I contacted my blogging friend Amanda Huffman and she graciously accepted my request.
Amanda served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan.
She first thought about joining the military in college. She was experiencing a season of confusion and a lack of purpose during this transition into adulthood. Amanda’s major was in math, but she wasn’t even sure what she was going to do with this math degree when she graduated. So she ended up looking into enlisting in the Air Force because it provided direction for her life and it would also help pay for school when she completed her training. Amanda originally set out to enlist in the Air National Guard. She was actually in the process of doing the required paperwork to enlist when she learned about the Reserve Officer Training Program. It peaked her interest and she went to an open house. Amanda liked what she saw and was ready to give the military thing a try. If all of this worked out she could still finish school, but with a scholarship. It seemed like a win-win! It ended up being a great opportunity for Amanda and she has no regrets about the decision she made.
When Amanda joined the ROTC program she switched degrees from math to Civil Engineering. Then in 2007, Amanda was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and her job type was coded as a Civil Engineer. During her six years of service in the Air Force for six years she worked on various projects and programs ranging from environmental, construction, energy and her deployment to Afghanistan. Amanda’s role in the airforce is a little more complex than some because she was loaned out by the Air Force to complete an Army deployment. Amanda said she never expected to leave the safety of the base and interact with the people of Afghanistan and if you asked her before she left if she could do it she would have said no, but she proved herself wrong.
Looking back Amanda said she enjoyed being a Civil Engineer in the Air Force. She describes it as a cool job that it takes you out from behind the desk and out in the field.
I can tell that despite the challenges and surprises of the military Amanda has fond memories of her time in the Air Force. I asked her what made her decide to get out and here was her answer:
When I was deployed to Afghanistan, I saw moms who had to call their kids and miss part of their lives. The whole experience of being deployed was difficult. And being away from my kids would have made the whole experience harder. My career field (Civil Engineering) had a high deployment tempo. The military has a 6-month window you can’t deploy after having a baby, I didn’t think that I could do that.
So, when I got pregnant with my son Luke, I decided it was time to leave the Air Force.
Another factor was the fact that Michael is in the service too. We never actually moved to a new assignment at the same time while we were in. This was inconvenient when it was just us, it would have been a whole lot harder with kids.
The best choice for our family was for me to leave the military.
Amanda assumed that after coming home from Afghanistan, doing the mom thing would be easy. She watched many of her friends take on the role of motherhood and they made it look effortless. It turned out parenthood was way harder than she expected and unlike the military it didn’t come with lots of training or a built-in support network.
While transitioning from combat boots to diaper bags was really hard, Amanda had kicked self-doubt to the curb before and was ready to do it again. She remembered her experience of deployment and the feeling that she couldn’t face the unknown, but she did it. She adapted. She gave it everything she had and motherhood would be no different.
Amanda says that in the past four years she has seen a lot of growth within and has slowly adapted to mom life. She explains further “It doesn’t mean motherhood is easy, it is still hard, but I have found myself learning to give myself grace.”
I asked Amanda if she has any advice for Military spouses and she said:
I think military spouses get a bad rap. People think they are along for a free ride, but military spouses play an important, vital role. Without the support of military spouses the military would cease to exist.
Military spouses may not be wearing the uniform, but they serve and make sacrifices. I admire military spouses and am right there with them in not liking the military some days and dreaming about what it would be like to stay in one place forever. Just remember that what you are doing matters and you serve too.
My final question was about whether Amanda could envision her children following in their military footsteps. It turns out that because Amanda’s oldest son was diagnosed with asthma when he was very young he can’t serve. Luckily, he has grown out of this diagnosis, but for now the current military rules still disqualify him from service. No matter what they choose Amanda says she will support whatever choices they make. She hopes that they will have positive memories from their life in the military and the adventures they take. The boys will be about to start high school when their dad reaches 20 years of service. Amanda wonders what life would be like without Military. It’s been such a huge part of her for so long. Then she shakes off the thought of it, there is plenty of time before she has to focus on that. For now it’s all about diaper changes, Disney Land (their favorite place to visit), and singing the ABC’s.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Amanda in person yet, but as I’ve followed her blog and seen her passion for her country and her family there is no doubt in my mind that her boys will have the utmost respect for the military and all of those who have selflessly sacrificed. I am sure they already view their mom and dad as heroes. I know I do.
The Huffman family is currently stationed in Southern California living the dream and making frequent trips to Disneyland. To hear more from Amand you can follow her blog, Airman to Mom where she incorporates stories from her past military life and her unique experiences as both a veteran and military spouse. You can also find Amanda on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.