When you choose to serve in the military, it's understood that you may have to make sacrifices—some big and some small. But would you be willing to sacrifice custody of your children?
Many civilians don't know that women in the military can lose custody while they're overseas. This harsh reality is something divorced military mothers must deal with while fighting to stay alive.
Tanya, a sergeant in the National Guard and single mother to two boys, is one of those soldiers. "His father and I split when [my oldest son] was very young, so it was just him and I for a long time," she says. "We have a very close bond."
When her son was 5 years old, Tanya remarried and gave birth to another son. "Our life was complete," she says.
Then, after 11 years of National Guard service, Tanya was deployed to Iraq. "It was very emotional to know that you're going to leave and miss crucial points in your child's life," she says.
When she received her orders, Tanya says she made arrangements for both of her sons to stay with her husband, but her ex-husband didn't agree with that arrangement. He wanted his son to live with him while Tanya was overseas, so he filed a petition for temporary custody.
A judge ruled that Tanya's older son should temporarily live with his father. "One thing that gave me a little peace of mind was knowing that when I came home, he was going to come back home also," Tanya says. "Then, about a week before I was to come back home, I found out that might not happen."