May 10, 2015
by Franchon Ambrose
Franchon presenting to a class of students during her fellowship.
In 2009, the Army granted me my DD 214. I felt like I had lost all purpose, all life, all will. Where would I go from here? Who was I going to be now?
In 2015, I gained a new lease on life thanks to The Mission Continues. I now find myself surrounded by youth of all ages pouring out hope, strength, laughter, and values. I am not just referring to my children, but also the young kids in my community.
But first, this story starts with my own childhood.
Mother, father, brother, friend, teacher, soldier, officer, pastor. These are all words that I associated as a kid with important and meaningful titles. Unfortunately, as I grew up, those titles and their meanings faded from view.
My mother thought about alcohol and her next drug fix as she changed my diapers. My father was abusive and violent. When I was 11 years old, my mother sold me for drugs. I lived with this person for almost a year, attended school regularly and even made good grades. I eventually was rescued and sent back to live with my sisters because my mother was in no shape to care for anyone. Unfortunately, without proper care and guidance in my life I was pregnant with my first child before my sweet 16. It was nearly unbearable, but, I didn’t let it stop my life from going on. I served as an usher and choir singer in church; it was a sanctuary where I learned to stay strong and keep pressing forward.
I left my hometown and enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18, bound for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. After September 11th, I knew I had to make a difference for my family and break the cycle of hardship and abuse in my family.
Joining the Army was the best thing I could have ever done.
I learned being a soldier wasn’t just about combat or what you see in the movies. It was about service for others—for the country and your countrymen. I learned that people you had never met could be your family. When I left for my first deployment to Iraq in 2006, I remember kissing my 4-year old daughter and my 9-month old daughter goodbye, feeling proud knowing I was fighting for a cause bigger than myself. I will never regret fighting for my country’s freedom.
I continued to serve after my deployment. I married and had more children. Eventually, duty called for me to become a full-time mother and say goodbye to the Army.
It took me quite some time to identify myself as a veteran because I missed my comrades, I missed serving my country, and most of all I missed being a soldier.
But then I heard about The Mission Continues. I was so excited. I was afraid that I may not meet the expectations, but I wanted to take a chance. I believed that I still had purpose and a story to tell. I am now the American Red Cross Youth Club Advisor. I have been given the opportunity to take part in the lives of youth who want to donate their time in their community. Being able to encourage these youth and educate them about values, leadership, and hard work has truly helped me build my confidence. I was so lost after the getting out of the military. I felt like I couldn’t be anything but a soldier. The Mission Continues helped me push past my fears and dive into the realness of me.
Just recently as part of my fellowship, I had the privilege with members of the American Red Cross Youth Club and of speaking to patrons visiting a local theater. We shared information about the American Red Cross’s mission and pamphlets about disaster preparation. More importantly, I showed the youth how to be bold, professional, and how to speak out on the foundation that they are working for.
At some point in our lives, we have all been told to suck it up and drive on. We have all had moments in our lives when we felt overwhelmed. But then we remember those titles – mom, dad, brother, sister, soldier – we remember what they mean, the responsibility we take on by donning those titles.
So on Mother’s Day this year, I look back on what the title of ‘mother’ means to me. It means a lot, but above all, it reminds me to be a model of love and goodness for my children to follow. And in the moments when they think they can’t do something, they’ll remember my story and believe they can do anything.
Franchon Ambrose is a mother, US Army veteran and Mission Continues Fellow.