Resilient Iwo Jima Moms Celebrate Mother's Day at Sea

Story Number: NNS180510-15Release Date: 5/10/2018 2:40:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe J. Cardona Gonzalez, USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Public Affairs

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (NNS) -- The month of May recognizes the tremendous sacrifice of individuals who have given their all in service to our country. Some of these individuals hold the dual title of "Mother" and Sailor. Even on Mother's Day, these modern-day sea-warriors endure being away from family in order to continue the fight for freedom around the world.

"Mother's Day and my birthday have always been kind of a big deal for my family and me," said Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kristin Schuster. "Mother's Day was always about my mother not me. This year's Mother's Day is really hard for me because I don't have my mom to celebrate with anymore and I can't be home with my family, not to mention my dad, [which makes it tougher]. This year will be a different kind of Mother's Day, as all the moms aboard will be celebrating with each other."

Focusing on the mission at hand, qualifications, daily tasks and the accomplishment of short term goals at sea; a deployment is a difficult circumstance to manage. Aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD7), there are Sailors that face this reality every day. Each has a different method of handling the day to day routine of deployment and the stresses of family separation especially on holidays such as Mother's day.

"I am naturally a person that likes to stay busy." said Lt. Petunia Orr. "The last thing I want to do is just sit there and mope around missing family. You have to realize you still have to perform a mission. You already know that you're stationed to a ship and going to be here for a few years. The minute you come aboard you have to start prepping your family for your departure. You have to allow the household to operate without you and allow your spouse to make most of the decisions. If you're a controlling person like me, that's pretty hard to do. "

When serving aboard a Navy vessel on a mission, internet connectivity and "Sailor phone" communication are vital components to keeping Sailors connected with their families back home.

"Keeping in contact is very important," said Quartermaster 3rd Class Nathifa Reaves. "My eldest son is able to e-mail me and talk to me on the phone. It reassures me that he loves me, and he misses me, and he knows why I am here, which makes things a little easier."

Though they cope with the sacrifices differently, these Sailors understand their service and perseverance are important to providing the best lifestyle for their family and children. Schuster puts missing Mother's Day in context with her military service and what it means to her as a whole.

"I've got eight-and-a-half years left in the Navy. That will put my oldest at 15-and-a-half years when I get to retire at 20 [years of service]. I'll have accomplished something in my life that will give me something back later on top of also having children. My family and the Navy are the only things I can count on."

Iwo Jima, homeported in Mayport, Florida, is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes Iwo Jima, the transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.

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