Today we are treated to a different perspective from a new writer to our group. Karen Enslin is the mother of Elyssa Enslin who currently serves with the 152nd Security Forces Squadron and also their Key Volunteer, reaching out to the families of the airmen on an as needed basis acting as a liaison between the families, command and the resources that are offered to the families. Karen and her family have been in the Nevada area since 2012 and a part of the 152nd for the same.
As a single mother of two young ladies I have always thought that I had two choices. Try to control them and tell them what was best or try to listen and learn from them and learn enough about them so I could point them in the right direction of a happy, productive life. The reason you are reading this article is because I am the mom of an American Airman. My daughter, Elyssa, is a member of the 152nd Security Forces Squadron and currently deployed. That is quite a sentence right there. I say it to myself all the time. Most frequently when she is telling me of an exercise that her and LT, Nokolibby, Pitts or countless other last names, abbreviations or acronyms are running that night. I dare say that I have grown to know these people by the same abbreviations, last names and acronyms that she refers to them by. Other times I say it out loud just to make it real. Yes, Elyssa did choose to join the military and yes, she did choose this job but most importantly yes, she does truly love her job.
What we didn’t tell her recruiter is that when Elyssa enlisted, the family enlisted as well. I became hyper sensitive to all things military and found out just how little my daughter was willing to share with me about her military life. In the little that Elyssa would share I found myself quite confused. Not knowing military ways, etiquette or language. Again, I had to make a choice to find the answers and acclimate myself to this type of lifestyle or stay in the unknown. I chose to find out as much as a civilian possibly could. I was lucky enough to meet one of the men she spoke so highly of and his wife at a retirement party. I could instantly see why Elyssa would want to do her best for him. He had a great sense of humor, very approachable and maybe even a little surprised that Elyssa was with her mom but I instantly felt welcome. I met his wife as well and had the opportunity to share some of my concerns with her. She almost instantly mentioned being a Key Volunteer for the 152nd and maybe even Elyssa’s squadron. I was thrilled to accommodate her invitation to the upcoming meeting.
I distinctly remember the first meeting that I attended. I was very nervous and quite intimidated by the rank and titles that were introducing themselves and I also remember asking myself what my title was when it very simply was and is, “Mom”. Once my title was disclosed I was pleasantly surprised at how welcomed I was here too! I have attended as many meetings as possible for many reasons. First and foremost I thoroughly enjoy being a support system for our airmen and their families. The facts and services that are available to the families are truly too much for one person to know about but, finding out who will have the answers for the airmen and their families is key. Since Elyssa has been deployed I find comfort in being around the uniform, being around the people that have maybe already been there and the countless poor souls that have let me bend their ear with my plethora of questions. I am not so sure that I would be as comfortable with my questions if I wasn’t a key volunteer. I have had the opportunity to share with other parents their worry and pride for the children. When my daughter first left for her destination I did what I think most parents do. They become hyper productive, start a dozen or so odd jobs and paste a smile on their face when truly they are dying inside because they would rather take the place of their “baby” then to see them go. Then as you are reaching out to everyone to ask if they are ok or if they need help you get a phone call from someone asking you if you are ok… it becomes very personal, very quickly. In that moment that you realize that maybe that is just what you needed was for someone from the base, that your daughter, son, sister, brother, mother and or father calls his or her second home, cares if you are ok. When I got this call I was told something that ironically I hadn’t thought of. I was told that when I get nervous or scared for Elyssa to remember how well she has been trained for this and just as quickly as the tears and fear started, they stopped. There have since been times where I have had to pull these words back into my mind and find peace there. Ironically, the same place that I have agreed to be strong and informative and helpful to is the same place that has given me strength, kept me informed and helped me cope with the separation. I would love to thank all the Airmen that have willingly agreed to leave their families to ultimately protect our borders and the families that have stayed behind to clear the way for our airmen to keep their mind on the mission and the mission on their mind.