MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Although it was midday outside, the blinds were shut and the curtains were drawn. She sat on the couch in her pajamas with her eyes fixated on the television as she slowly caressed her abdomen, feeling slight flutters and kicks. A news report about an infantry units’ current exploits in Afghanistan comes on, the numbers of the battalion and regiment all too familiar to her. The report cuts to footage from a foot patrol, grainy and unstable. Suddenly the video becomes blurry and violently shakes as shots are heard. She gasps in fear of the unknown and her eyes well up with tears.
This may be a common experience for many military spouses with deployed loved ones, most commonly a pregnant wife sitting home mulling over her husbands’ well being. Additionally, the strain put on a family may be more than some may be able to handle during a deployment. Sometimes all hope may felt to be lost.
“When you’re a new mom with a deployed husband, you have to go at it alone sometimes,” said Michelle Obama, first lady of the United States. “The stress and pressure of everything can overwhelm you from time to time and you may need some support.”
Support was the key word during Operation Shower, a non-profit initiative established in 2007 to ease the stress and burden of being an expecting military spouse with a deployed husband. The event was held at the Ball Center aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and hosted a spectacular guest speaker list of top mothers of the country and the Marine Corps.
Alongside Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president of the United States, Martha Stewart, famed television personality, Bonnie Amos, wife of the commandant of the Marine Corps, and Elizabeth Kent, wife of sergeant major of the Marine Corps, were all in attendance to speak to the 40 expecting Marine spouses with husbands either deployed or injured.
The event kicked off with Obama, Biden and Stewart personally meeting with every single expecting mother there and giving them all words of encouragement for whatever trials they respectively face. Following the departure of the preliminary speakers, each of the wives received a box and bag stuffed with an assortment of baby gear, totaling up to more than $1,000 in toys, diapers, bedding and more.
“This is a very humbling, special opportunity,” said Kathleen Coulter, a military spouse with a deployed husband. “Functions like this are also very important because it lets these women know that people do care for them and are able to help if necessary.”
After the gifts were handed out, a raffle was held for various items, such as customizable crib bedding and diaper bags. Partway through the drawings, Amos and Kent took the floor to offer a few kind words to the spouses.
“As women who know what you’re going through, we just wanted to thank you ladies for holding it together,” said Amos. “We’re proud of you.”
During the raffle, a check for $12,445 from care.com, a website dedicated to assisting expectant mothers, was given away, totaling the average annual cost for child care. At the end of the raffle, a convertible crib from Pottery Barn was given away to all the spouses, heralding gasps and looks of astonishment from the crowd.
“Today, we have two goals to accomplish,” said Danielle Smith, emcee for the event. “”We want you all to have fun, but to also walk away at the end of the day knowing everyone greatly appreciates what your families do every day and what you may be put through.”
As the wives jubilantly spoke to one another about the tremendous gifts they received, they didn’t for a minute forget their gratitude for the day’s events. Yes, free gifts and money were given out, but the message was not a lost one. Pregnant, by themselves and some without jobs, these military wives bear a greater burden than most, but it does not mean they are alone.