The best day of Emily Martinez’s life was 10 months ago, when her daughter, Carly Ivy, was born.
The career soldier and single mom had the baby while she was stationed in Oahu, Hawaii. It was her first child, and there were several complications during the pregnancy. Eventually, Carly Ivy was born seven weeks early, weighing 5 pounds.
“Carly is my little miracle baby, she is my blessing, the love of my life,” said Martinez.
"Deployment is something all soldiers do, a lot of soldiers leave their children behind. I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last.”
- Emily Martinez
Martinez’s first Mother’s Day, two months before her daughter’s first birthday, will probably be her toughest and most wrenching — that day she leaves for deployment to Afghanistan, where she will be stationed for one year.
“I thought about a lot of ways I could stay with her,” said Martinez, who will be trying her best to plan her daughter’s first birthday from Afghanistan. “I thought about using my baby as an excuse so that I’m not deployed, I thought about bringing her with me but I couldn’t.”
The young staff sergeant said she instead chose not to ignore her responsibilities as a soldier.
“Deployment is something all soldiers do, a lot of soldiers leave their children behind,” Martinez said. “I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last.”
Martinez, 29, enlisted in the U.S. Army in search for freedom and a way out of her parents' house in 2002. Since then, she has been promoted five times and is now a staff sergeant stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. But she recalls the five years she spent stationed in Oahu as the best years of her life.
“I dreamt of Hawaii since I enlisted,” said Martinez. “I wanted to come here and have a daughter here, I loved everything about Hawaii.”
But it wasn’t easy. Martinez found herself alone, expecting her first baby hundreds of miles away from her family.
“I felt very sad because she was so far away,” said her mother, Regina. “I did not know what to do because I couldn’t leave my job to go be with her in Hawaii.
Martinez’s sister, Julie, 23, ended up taking an 11-hour flight from New York City to help her sister, who was hospitalized in Hawaii for the last five weeks of her pregnancy.
In Afghanistan, Martinez will be in charge of the repatriation of the fallen soldiers. Her job is to ensure that the remains are shipped to the families and that paperwork is properly filled out and in a timely manner.
“We have a small window to make sure everything is done right,” said Martinez, who was deployed in 2009 to Iraq. “We have to be fast and respectful to our fallen comrades.”
Her mom Regina will take care of her granddaughter while her daughter is deployed.
“You cannot do this alone, you cannot think that you will be superwoman and do it all by yourself,” Emily said. “It is hard to be a single mother in the military, but if you have a supportive family you can do it all.”
Regina said she is just trying to focus on the positive.
“She can do it,” she said, “and finish her time so that she can spend many more Mother's Days with her daughter.”