Notes in a Lunchbox
The love of a mother
Her day starts well before the sun comes up. Kids are still asleep, she moves through a silent house getting ready. The smell of coffee is in the air, her children's clothes are already laid out, and she checks the calendar one last time to make sure everything for the week is planned out.
She sets her seabag by the door then quietly walks into each of her children's rooms, sits on the side of their beds, leans down and kisses them. As she leans up, she lightly rubs her hands through their hair and lingers for a moment. She says goodbye to her husband at the door with a long, yet not long enough embrace. She'll be gone for a while on business and will miss this.
At home she is mom, but at work she is a United States Navy chief petty officer.
Chief Petty Officer Shanna Todd, from Phoenix, carries the calm, stern demeanor of a Navy chief as she walks through the passageways aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). She is tough but fair, honest, and doesn't sugarcoat the truth, especially when it's hard. Most importantly, she loves her job.
"I joined for a lot of the same reasons that many Sailors join; I wanted to get money to go to school," explained Todd.
Within her first two enlistments, Todd fulfilled her obligation and was able to earn two associates degrees and a bachelor's degree. With her original goals accomplished, she found what once was a means-to-an-end now became a calling.
I decided to stay in because I love the Navy and I love what it has done for my family." - Chief Shanna Todd
"This organization has given so much to me; I really felt obligated to give back to it," said Todd. "I love what the Navy does for the country, I love my job, and I love being able to help Sailors."
Todd, a loving wife and mother of two, has been in the Navy for 11 years and has completed numerous deployments. She has traveled the world, experienced the highest of highs in her career, and helped countless of her fellow service members. But with service comes sacrifice.
"As great as deployments can be, it is time lost from your family," she said. "As a father or mother, it's extremely hard especially to see the effect that it has on the children."
Todd's first deployment away from a child, her daughter Marissa, now 9 years old, was spent in Guantanamo Bay. This brought the realization of sacrifice into full view for her.
Recalling on her experience, she said, "I was away for a year. By the time I came back, Marissa was potty trained, walking and talking in full sentences. It's a huge chunk of life that I saw I would never get back."
"You're so used to providing everything for them," Todd continued. "You're breastfeeding them, trying to get them to sleep through the night, bath time, and it almost feels like there's an emptiness or some part of you that you're not fulfilling. As a parent, that's something that's a part of you. You want to go and be successful in your career and serve your country, but you also want to be home and take care of them."
Looking down at her desk with a distant stare, she said, "You can't re-create those moments that you miss no matter how much you Skype, Facetime, or even talk on the phone."
One of her most challenging times coming home was when she finished a six-month deployment aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5).
Almost nine months prior to leaving, she had given birth to her son Sylar, now two. During this time she made the decision to make the Navy a career. In order to do that, she would again have to make sacrifices.