Heidi McFall, the wife of Yuma Proving Ground Commander Col Ben “Patrick” McFall, knows first-hand that mothers in the military often have to make tremendous sacrifices to get the job done.
McFall, who served with the U.S. Army’s 101st Support Battalion at Fort Riley, Kansas, said she faced and overcame challenges every day raising her daughter while she was on active duty.
“Being a mother, there are always the day-to-day challenges,” said McFall, who served from 1989 to 1993. “But military life, being a parent, with children, is tough. It made me stronger.”
McFall had a daughter in 1991 with her then-husband, who was in the same battalion.
“For me, the biggest concerns were constantly being on call and always making sure our daughter was being cared for properly so that I could do my duty,” McFall said.
That was also the same year Operation Desert Storm began, which meant either one, or both of them could get deployed to Kuwait, and that she would be away from her daughter for up to a year.
“We named my mother her guardian in case we both got deployed,” McFall said. “It was heartbreaking, but we had to have a back-up in place to make sure she would be taken care of.”
Although McFall did not deploy, her then-husband did, leaving her to take care of everything at the house and raise their child single-handedly while he was on the other side of the world.
“It was the same challenges, but everything fell on my shoulders,” McFall said. “Everything worked out well, but it was still stressful.”
She added that Fort Riley also had a supportive community with other families who helped her with the struggles associated with motherhood in the military.
“The key to survival is other service members helping each other out,” McFall said. “That is truly the only way we survived.”
It was not unusual for other families in the battalion to babysit children when their parents were on duty. After all, they too understood the difficulties associated with wearing the uniform and the commitment it took.
“We helped each other out,” McFall said. “It actually did take a village to raise a child. That is still true to this day.”
Her daughter, the oldest of her three children, is a single mother stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and is experiencing some of the same difficulties her mother did.
“My daughter has so many friends who help her out,” McFall said. “And I’m always here to help her also.”
Despite the hardships she faced as a military parent, McFall said she wouldn’t change a thing if she had to do it all over again.
“It was a lot of hardship and hassle, but it was worth it,” McFall said.
After leaving the U.S. Army McFall was able to use her G.I. Bill and go back to school, eventually earning a Masters Degree.