It’s not hard to understand how difficult life in the military can be. Long deployments away from the ones you love; starting from scratch with every new move; avoiding the questions blockheaded civilians ask to distance ourselves from the reality of the answers. All of it is hard. It takes a special breed of women to take on the military life whether they don the uniform or support the man who does-they are one-in-a-million.
And so I want to honor two of these Military Mamas today on my blog. These women have shown that no matter where the Army (in this case) sends them, they thrive and make a difference in the world around them.
Liz Smith has run more than 100 races, competed in close to 75 half marathons in the last 7 or 8 years but nothing compares to the joy she gets crossing the finish line as one of Ainsley’s Angels.
Joining the Army, Liz, knew running was required but she dreaded it. As a child she preferred swimming or martial arts…really, anything but running. However, in the Army, a soldier must always be combat ready and that meant running. A new assignment landed her with a new boss who LOVED running. Like five miles a day five times a week kind of love. She couldn’t and wouldn’t let her new boss down. Hooah!! It didn’t take Liz long to embrace the challenge and discover that running relieved her stress. Twenty years later she has developed into an elite athlete with an elite purpose.
While deployed in Afghanistan Liz became the unofficial ambassador for the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon series. With only a starter group of four they quickly grew to over 250 participants competing in each race across four bases in country. Racking up more than 1200 miles in 12 months, she completed 17 half marathons and 50 virtual runs of varying distances but her goal was never in the mileage-it was in encouraging a new runner cross the finish line.
Returning from Afghanistan Liz’s purpose for running shifted. In 2014, she offered her legs to one of Ainsley’s Angels. An organization started by an Active Duty Marine whose daughter has Infantile Neuroaxanol Dystrophy (INAD). The organization’s mission is inclusion by offering individuals with disabilities the freedom to take part in endurance events. “Angels” offer their legs to serve as the rider/athlete’s legs and Liz got her chance to be an angel in September 2014. She pushed Chandler “Bean” for seven miles during the Washington Ragnar Relay-a 200 mile team run from Maryland to Washington D.C. Honored by the experience of watching “Bean’s” joy she now serves as a national ambassador for the organization.
Liz’s love for running and people has inspired her daughter, Katie, to follow in mom’s footsteps. She, too, has become an ambassador for Ainsley’s Angels and has already served as an angel twice in March. Katie is now training for her first half marathon where she can push a chair with an athlete and a message about inclusion. Liz is incredibly proud of her daughter’s selflessness but I think it goes without saying, “like mother-like daughter.”
Natalie has been supporting her soldier hero since 1995, along with their children Wyatt and Cammie.
Military movement is hard on every member in the family, including the furry family members. If you visit an animal shelter near any military installation it won’t be hard to find a family pet abandoned because of a move or deployment. This is where Natalie shines!
After adopting their dogs Dottie and Hatcher through the Humane Society near Ft. Hood in 1998, it didn’t take long for Natalie and her entire family to fall in love with precious “fur babies” discarded into the streets.
A military assignment to Indiana started their journey into fostering when they became a part of Houndsong, a beagle and coonhound resuce out of Hammond, IN. Their first rescue, Sully, was a Bluetick beagle. Fostering him for two months and finding him a forever home turned the Voss family into canine heroes!
It’s a family affair to rescue.
Since then, Natalie and her family have rescued around 120 dogs giving them a second chance at life. Many of the families who adopt her rescued “fur babies” keep in touch with Natalie sharing pictures through Facebook about how their new furry family member is thriving and adding joy to their lives.
Of course, Natalie has had a couple of foster “fails”, meaning a few of her rescues have melted her heart and the heart of her stalwart soldier leading to several new Voss family members. Gunnar, Primrose, Periwinkle, and Sandy joined the family through the years and have become poster pups spreading the word about how important it is to save a dog and adopt.
Natalie’s family has embraced her love of rescue and participate in several rescue events in their area to raise awareness and money for animal rescue. They are currently working with Rescued Pets Movement rescuing animals from Houston area shelters and then fostering them until healthy enough to travel to their new forever families.
“The ways in which people treat animals will be reflected in how people relate to one another.”-William Greider.
Natalie’s treatment with these abandoned souls is reflective of her loving, generous, and selfless personality. There aren’t many times when you can look and see an angel on earth but I know each of those big puppy dog eyes that look up at her from a cage know what I know-she is an angel.
It has been my great honor and pleasure to honor these Military Mamas for the work they do as well as supporting and protecting our military. It is my hope that you will check out the links to the organizations they are involved with and be inspired to support making the world a better place. As part of this special honor I will be sending a small token of my gratitude for the difference they are making along with a donation to each of their organizations.
Don’t miss next week’s post when I introduce you to MWDs. Don’t know what an MWD is? Well, it’s another military hero…of the canine variety. Author, Ronie Kendig, will introduce you to her series A Breed Apart, a trilogy of stories about these awesome four-legged war heros along with your chance to win a signed copy!
Keep up the good work Mamas!! Hooah!