*NewsChannel 9 would like to extend special thanks to the men and women at Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division for coordinating interviews and contributing video for this story.
Every day moms are helping families get ready for school or other activities, all while balancing their schedules.
Balancing home life may be even more difficult when moms are suiting up to serve our country.
In a Mother’s Day tribute, NewsChannel 9 is “Saluting Moms” as reporter Farah Jadran shares the journey of four soldiers including one mom who is spending Mother’s Day in Iraq.
Capt. Elena Bobocea, U.S. Army
More than 10 years ago, Army Capt. Elena Bobocea, found herself being drawn to the military.
“I just felt it was the right thing to join the Army,” Bobocea said. “I felt it in my heart and also it was recruiting commercial.”
Sitting in her office on Fort Drum, Bobocea took a few moments to remember that very commercial that made her want to be a soldier.
“It was the ‘Army of One’ commercial and they were jumping out of airplanes,” Bobocea said. “I wanted to be that person.”
Bobocea’s love of country and commitment to serving remained steady since then.
“Army was my life from the moment I joined, and being a mom and having a family, it just happened recently about three years ago,” Bobocea shared. “I met my husband, actually in Afghanistan, and we got married and we have two children now.”
A window in her office is lined with framed photos of her two kids and her husband.
Bobocea has been deployed to Afghanistan twice, but has not been called since starting a family.
“Right now, we are ready to deploy at all times. So, I don’t know when we will deploy,” Bobocea said. “I don’t even want to think about it, but when the time comes, I will be ready.”
As her husband transitions into active duty himself, her family has a short-term and a long-term plan in place in the event they are deployed at the same time.
Bobocea describes being a commander as a challenging position – one that only gets harder when trying to also be a mom. Her children may be young, but Bobocea and her husband already have plans for them.
“Being a commander, I take care of my soldiers and their families. At the end of the day, we’re all a big family. When I look at my children, I see the president of the United States and definitely both of them serving in the military,” Bobocea said. “Our expectations are pretty high because we made a lot of sacrifices so they could have a better life.”
Turning three years old this year, Bobocea’s son has shown interest in planes and cars. He’s known as the child that’s “always on the go,” while his sister is very calm and quiet.
“I end up putting videos on YouTube with F15s and he’s like, ‘Mom, mom look!’ I don’t know, maybe he will be a pilot one day,” Bobocea said.
Even after a long day, Bobocea says she puts aside everything to focus on her family.
“You get home and you’re tired. You’ve had a full day at work, but I just don’t think about myself, honestly,” Bobocea said. “I dedicate myself to my children and my family and just make it happen.”
1st Lt. Evonnie Fomento, U.S. Army
In 2006, 1st Lt. Evonnie Fomento began her military service when she joined the Army National Guard in New Mexico. In 2017, Fomento became an active duty soldier.
Fomento grew up in a service family as she saw members of each generation serving in the military in various branches.
“I knew that I always wanted to be a mom but I never considered how being a mom would work with being in the military,” said Fomento, mom to Crixus, 6, and Naevie, 4.
“Time is probably the biggest challenge because we have a job that we have to do and the fact that our children have a music performance or a parent-teacher conference isn’t always going to fall at the most ideal time for the Army,” Fomento explained.
As a single mom, Fomento says she splits her time between nurturing and disciplining – roles that can be challenging at times.
Although her children are only four and six years old, Fomento says they both know “mommy is in the military.”
“[Crixus] thinks it’s awesome. He thinks the military is awesome and he loves it,” Fomento shared. “My daughter, I think it’s just the only thing that she really knows and so, it’s not really a big deal to her.”
Fomento has spent up to five months away from her children at a time – periods of time she knows could become even longer.
“It’s hard because a lot happens in five months. Your kids change and they grow a lot in five months and you end up missing birthdays or holidays that as kids get older you’re more aware of the different events in their lives that you’re missing,” Fomento shared. “I know that a deployment is very likely. In our job it’s just something that we have to be aware of.”
Despite the heartache of missing birthdays, holidays and other milestones – Fomento says her sacrifices are, in the end, for her children to have a better future.
“Crixus absolutely loves math. He’s very much into the History Channel and pretty much anything science,” Fomento shared. “My daughter – she’s tough. She’s a very strong individual.”
Her daughter Naevie, who was born with a genetic disorder, is a member of the Army’s Exceptional Family Member Program in which she receives speech and physical therapies provided through the school system.
Fomento says the services are great and are allowing Naevie to grow in her communication skills so she can play with her peers.
“Some of the sacrifices are hard, I know, but when I look back on it. The fact that I’m showing them service to our country – how strong we are as moms…how strong parents are,” Fomento shared. “I feel amazing that I’m able to work both jobs. That I’m able to be there for my kids while being there for my soldiers.”
If her children choose to one day serve the nation – Fomento says she would expect the same sacrifice and dedication from their respective commanding officers.
“Moms are a lot tougher than anybody thinks that we are,” Fomento said. “At the end of the day, sometimes you just look at your kids and you don’t really know how you made it through that day, but you make it through because there’s no other choice but to make it through.”
Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Butler-Dabreo, U.S. Army
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Butler-Dabreo says the “city life” was not the right fit for her.
In 2000, she enlisted in the U.S. Army and made the military her new home.
Over the years of her military career, Butler-Dabreo’s four deployments have landed her in Iraq, Afganistan and Kuwait, which was in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Butler-Dabreo says her first deployment proved to be more heartbreaking than she ever imagined it would be.
“My first deployment, my daughter was five months old and I got on a plane and I went to Iraq,” shared Butler-Dabreo, as tears filled her eyes recalling the memory. “It’s challenging. I cried the entire way. I’m not going to lie to you.”
Butler-Dabreo always knew she wanted to be a mom, but it never crossed her mind that it would happen while she was also serving.
“When that time came, when I became a mom, it was happy. It was also heartbreaking because, you know, you have to leave your newborn to go do what you signed up to do which is serve your country,” Butler-Dabreo said.
Butler-Dabreo’s daughter Jade is now 13 years old.
In their dual-military family, Butler-Dabreo and her husband are often deployed at the same time.
“Once you’re called, you have to go,” Butler-Dabreo said. “There’s been several times when we were called and we both went and we had to uproot our family.”
The added challenges for a dual-military family have built new appreciation for Butler-Dabreo’s mother and what she has done to support the family when the nation calls on them.
“My mom has been a godsend to me because, if not, I would probably not be sitting here today,” Butler-Dabreo said. “She is my rock and she knows it and I can’t thank her enough for always being there for us when we needed her. She tells me, ‘Don’t worry about home, I’ve got this. You pay attention to what you’re doing out there.’ That’s what she always says to me.”
The military is all Jade has known, according to Butler-Dabreo.
“She faces it fearlessly even though she tries to hide it because she’s tough like her mom,” Butler-Dabreo said. “The challenge is there and she’s been doing it just like we have. So, I commend her as well.”
Butler-Dabreo lovingly describes Jade has her “mini me.”
“She looks exactly like me,” Butler-Dabreo said. “Attitude is the same way. She’s funny. She’s very smart. She’s an avid reader. She loves to read from the time she wakes up in the morning to the time she goes to sleep.”
With a teenager in the house, Butler-Dabreo says the conversations are ever-changing.
“When I’m picking her up from school is usually the best time for me because she tells me all her stories – the typical 13-year-old drama that’s going on at school,” Butle-Dabreo shared. “It’s just a matter of embracing it while you can because sometimes we’re not here physically to embrace it. So, you have to take advantage of those moments.”
Butler-Dabreo says she has missed her fair share of birthdays, holidays and first days of school – moments she knows she cannot replace. While overseas, Butler-Dabreo says she and her daughter exchange messages as much as they can and they also FaceTime when possible to keep their communication strong.
In 2016, Butler-Dabreo was deployed to Kuwait and she spent Mother’s Day away from her daughter. She received a card and picture drawn by Jade while she awaited a FaceTime session in the middle of the night.
“For us, this is a career. It’s not just a job,” Butler-Dabreo said. “This is something we signed up for, to serve the nation when they call on us. I’m making a sacrifice for the family between me and my husband so she doesn’t have to do it.”
In the near future, Butler-Dabreo sees herself retiring in an effort to be more present for Jade’s teen years. Before then, she will continue to serve our country and work on her master’s degree.
“That’s the love of my life right there,” said Butler-Dabreo about her daughter. “Everything that I do – every morning, I wake up and put this uniform on it’s because of her.”
Sgt. Cristina McCoy, U.S. Army
When she was 19 years old, Sgt. Cristina McCoy decided to join the Army. She’s currently on her third deployment which places McCoy in Iraq for Mother’s Day.
McCoy and her husband, both active duty soldiers, met in high school and have come to learn that making time for each other is just as important as anyone says it is for couples.
While she is stationed in Baghdad, McCoy’s husband is stationed in South Korea.
“Right now all three of us are split up and it’s hard on our daughter but when we get back together is worth it,” said McCoy of their 4-year-old daughter Chanel. “This will be my second Mother’s Day without being with her. She’s with my mother-in-law and my grandmother-in-law, so I’m happy that she’s building memories with them.”
McCoy’s little girl loves to dance and she loves anything to do with dinosaurs.
When the McCoy troop is together, they enjoy trips to the zoo.
To keep everyone up to date on how little Chanel is doing, there are constant efforts to keep communication open.
“Usually, we video chat every other day and I get pictures and videos of her and she has a few videos of me, too, speaking to her and reading her book as well so she really likes that a lot,” McCoy said. “At the end of the day, I love her. I do this for her to have a better future.”
It’s the weight of the sacrifice that keeps McCoy positive in her commitment to the Army.
Part of her positive outlook has McCoy eager to be home for a major milestone.
“Her first day of kindergarten – I’m hoping I’m there for that,” McCoy shared. “I missed a lot of her firsts. My first deployment, she was seven months when I left.”
Leaving her baby to serve her country, McCoy says she will tell her daughter, one day, why the sacrifice was worth it.
“For her, I want her to grow up and be a strong woman and I feel that if she can see her mother hold a career and still have time for family,” McCoy said. “I want to set that example for her.”
For all moms on Mother’s Day, McCoy is sharing her best advice.
“Keep your head high. Stay positive,” McCoy shared. “At times, I feel guilty about being away, but just keep in mind that at the end of the day you’re setting a better future for your kids.”