“I am proud to be a member of a military family,” said Martha Thomas, (not her real name for privacy reasons), 44. “But until I started counting all the members of my family who have served their country, I did not realize just how meaningful being a member means to me.”
“My youngest son is a former Marine. He signed up when he was 18 because the service offered him the stability that I, as a single parent, could not give him. I was glad for him.”
Martha has had a rough life, full of abusive personal relationships that left her raising her five children, three sons and two daughters, alone. “We were homeless and we ate out of garbage cans,” she admitted in a recent interview. “I love my children but I had to spend a lot of time scrapping to feed and to house them.” When it came time for her son to enlist, she encouraged him to join the Marines for the discipline that she could not offer him. Count one.
“My dad was drafted and served during World War II. I was his caregiver when he passed away,” she sighed. A native of Oceanside, California, Thomas has lived outside of Camp Pendleton all of her life. “I guess I was born into the Army,” she quipped. Count Two.
“My parents raised five daughters. One of my sisters married a Navy man who wound up being a single parent like me raising children with little support. We supported each other emotionally.” Count three.
“The pride of my life is my youngest daughter who is expecting her first child at the end of August. The father is a Navy man and he is sticking by his family.” Count four.
“I feel more grounded today, now that my kids are older and on their own,” reflected Thomas, who works full time as a caregiver. “I found a life partner who respects me and understands my past.”
“I have always wanted to return to school. I never had a chance to graduate high school because I kept popping out my progeny. I am afraid now that it is too late. For me!”
Not at all. Thomas is considering enrolling in Palomar College in the Fall 2014 semester. She learned about the cooperative education program, which gives college credit for life and work experiences.
“I always thought I would have to pass the GED but that is not the case for someone over 24 years,” beamed Thomas. “I can start today on working on my Associates Degree.”
What does the future hold for this diminutive mom who has always supported the military with her love and support for her family? “I enjoy working in healthcare,” she stated with the passion of a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to work to get it.
Heather E. Siegel, a disability rights advocate based in San Diego, California, formerly in Chicago, Illinois. Concerned about mobility impairments in public buildings and raising concerns in the community. Projects have included casino busses with only stairs for entry; new libraries built on a top of a hill; medical buildings with heavy doors which prevent patient entry; lack of sufficient disability parking spaces; admission of support animals in public places; increasing the number of customer service carts at stores such as WalMart and Costco; recognition of certain medical conditions as being reimbursed by medical insurance; and greater access to State-sponsored personal assistance programs.