As I contemplate becoming a parent, I am constantly amazed, not to mention thoroughly intimidated, by the level of sheer commitment and sacrifice made by parents around me, including my own and my husband's. And then there's Cindra Smith -- sorry, that's Pfc. Cindra Smith, a soldier in C Company, 832nd Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ordnance Brigade. When Smith was still a civilian, her oldest daughter, a soldier serving in Iraq, was seriously injured by an IED (improvised explosive device). Smith's response: When the Army raised its acceptance age to 42, she herself enlisted. She is now training to become an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. (A son has joined up as well.)
"If I can save another parent from getting the same phone call I did, then I would have done everything I came in to do," Smith told a reporter for the Defense Department's Web site. "I believe [deploying] will give me a better understanding of what my children have experienced. Also, there are so many new IEDs being found out there every day. I commend those soldiers who have been putting their lives on the line each day for our country. It would be an honor for me to dismantle IEDs with them. I could be saving the life of someone's father, daughter or mother."
Smith is known affectionately as "Mama" in her company, which she says is a step up from her basic-training nickname ("Grandma"). A former Red Cross volunteer, she has also motivated her fellow soldiers to lend their time to a local Habitat for Humanity.
Say what you will about the military itself, the job it has currently been sent to do, the reason why the acceptance age was upped from 35, whether Smith "should" have instead joined an antiwar effort and so on. This is Pfc. Smith's world, and I say "Hooah!"
Update: The Army has informed Broadsheet that even though this story originally appeared on the DOD website, at least one major element of it is inaccurate; it appears that PFC Smith's daughter actually never served in Iraq. No explanation for PFC Smith's false statement was offered; it was not fact-checked by the Army prior to media release because doing so is not commonly part of Army public affairs procedure. (From an Army report on the incident: "Due to the Army's emphasis on Integrity, an Army core value, statements from Soldiers and Army civilians are generally accepted as being truthful." The Army also notes that this type of incident is rare.) As of September 6, PFC Smith's duty status is Absent Without Official Leave.