My daughter Bianca came into my life when she was three years old. I fell in love with her mother and I was smitten by this adorable child. The first time she called me “mama” my heart swelled with pride and I knew that no matter what happened in my life her happiness was what I would strive to attain.
Bianca even understood my working and going to school as steps to make a better life for our family. She was a patriot when 9/11 happened: when I came home from work that day the flag in the yard was at half-mast and she met me at the door to ask if I needed her to help me pack because she knew that as Soldier in the Army National Guard I might be deploying.
Her mother and I split up while I was deployed and it was hard work for Bianca and I to reconnect as a mother and daughter when I returned. I went through a loss of the relationship in which I raised my daughter into her teens. Because we were not legally married, I had no legal connection or right to see my child when I came home. Legal recognition of all marriages affords some protection to parents rights and provides security for their children. Despite the challenges, we did reconnect on an even deeper level, and circumstances allowed me to legally adopt her in 2005.
We moved on, and I fell in love again. Bianca actually enjoys taking credit for being the matchmaker for my wife, Nonie and I, having encouraged us to become more than friends. When I went to Iraq for my second deployment, again, she spent the duration of a two year mobilization with Nonie and her family. She graduated from high school and became a young mother while I was away. She is 25 years-old and has two beautiful boys. Bianca fell in love, but waited to marry until I returned from my fourth and hopefully last deployment and I have been so impressed to see her as a mother who supports and encourages her children to never stop believing in their ability to be anything they want to be given commitment and dedication. She has incorporated values of family, loyalty, commitment and defines herself on her own terms.
The best thing for me is knowing that she trusts in our relationship. From the first day of school when excited and scared, or the first broken heart that she endured, she knows that I love and support her. She grounded herself through her trust in Nonie’s support when she gave birth- these are all the feelings about being a parent that are cherished moments. Our daughter knows that we will be here for her no matter what. She can count on us. Having grandchildren is amazing in its own right as I contemplate how the changes that are in motion in the world now will affect their children’s lives in generations to come.
I hope and pray for Bianca’s happiness and the right to be given respect and fair treatment by the country that I have served. Both Nonie’s son, Souf, and my daughter, Bianca, are our children– regardless of their age. I have to believe that one day everyone will the right to be themselves without fear of repercussion or maltreatment.
We are mothers, and this Mother’s Day, we hope that someday soon, Wyoming will recognize us for exactly what we are—a loving family who just want to be afforded the same respect and protections given to all other families. Without the freedom to marry in Wyoming, Nonie and I cannot protect our children as we should. It is time for our family to have the respect we all deserve.