Whether she is serving in the armed forces or is the parent of a child in uniform, a military mother spends every day balancing her love for her country with her devotion to her family. Some amazing nominations were submitted for the third annual All You America’s Most Inspiring Military Moms contest.
The Multitasking Specialist
Brittany Miller, 24, Phoenix
Nominated by her husband, Ryan Miller
Like every working mom, Brittany Miller struggles to balance her career and her family. She gets up at 5 a.m. to pack lunches, rushes after work to pick up her 1-year-old daughter, Kaelyn, and squeezes in time to do the shopping, cooking and cleaning. Brittany’s husband, Ryan, is an Air Force firefighter who works 24-hour shifts every other day—which means Brittany is effectively a single parent for half the week. “On a good night,” she says, “maybe I get to watch part of a Harry Potter movie.”
All military families face hurdles. Ryan missed six months of Brittany’s pregnancy while doing basic training, followed by three months at the Department of Defense Fire Academy in Texas. (He got home two weeks before Kaelyn’s birth.) Now, because of his long shifts, the couple see each other as much via Apple FaceTime as they do in person. But the Millers’ challenges are doubled—at least—because Brittany is a senior airman in the Air Force. She works as a cyber transport specialist who simulates dogfights for pilots in training. It’s a high-pressure job, but Brittany—like many working moms—excels at staying focused despite the stress. She won the Airman of the Quarter award in July, beating out people from multiple squadrons. “Brittany was worried that she wouldn’t be able to balance her workload with being a mother,” says Ryan, 25, “but I think she has far exceeded any expectations. She’s my role model.”
And a busy one. Brittany is taking college classes in dental hygiene and computer science; she’s a regional representative for Headbands of Hope, which donates headbands to pediatric cancer patients; and regularly uses her lunch hour to visit Kaelyn at day care. “I hope that younger airmen can look at me and see that you can have a family and still accomplish great things at work,” she says. “It’s hard, but it can be done.”
There was, however, one situation Brittany did not think she could handle. In October 2013, when Kaelyn was just 3 months old, Brittany was ordered to Afghanistan. “Any other time, I gladly would have gone, but since Kaelyn was still breast-feeding, it was gut-wrenching,” she says. “I felt torn between my country and my family.”
The situation was even harder because Brittany and Ryan both come from Air Force families. They met in kindergarten when their fathers were stationed in Pennsylvania. Brittany still has the notebook where she scribbled “Brittany and Ryan Miller” inside the cover. Although their families later moved, they reconnected through Myspace. In 2011, just after she enlisted, Brittany was assigned to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, close to where Ryan was living, and they arranged to meet. “I instantly fell in love,” Ryan says. “Turns out I knew what I was looking for even in kindergarten.”
Of course, the Millers’ storybook love affair didn’t make her dilemma any easier. “There’s a lot of crippling guilt that goes with being a military mom,” she says. “People depend on you so much at work and at home.” When she realized that she couldn’t stand to leave Kaelyn, Brittany compiled a list of the benefits of breast-feeding, then submitted her report to her commander. He granted her appeal. “I felt a weight come off my shoulders,” says Brittany, who since then has advised two military moms in similar situations. “I’m glad I was able to help them,” she says.