The Pentagon doesn't track how many deployed service members are mothers (or fathers). But being a parent while serving the country creates unique challenges.
On Mother's Day 2016, Nicol Roldan was 7,700 miles away from her two children. She was in Afghanistan on her first deployment
"I cried, of course," Roldan said. "You miss your home. You miss your kids."
But as an Air Force Master Sergeant, she had little time to dwell on her emotions.
"You realize, okay, this is a decision that was made, you have no regrets," she said. "Let your feelings out, cry, and tomorrow is another day."
Her days in Afghanistan added up to seven months. Roldan, 42, worked as an x-ray technician and oversaw a military hospital's pharmacy, laboratory and nutrition sections.
Previously, she has been stationed in Japan, Germany, Turkey and several bases stateside. But she had never been deployed in more 20 years in the armed services.
So when she found out she was going to Afghanistan, it shocked her. She missed birthdays, the end of the school year, the start of next school year, as well as small family rituals.
"What my kids look forward to, and they would never admit to any of their friends, the fact that I tuck them in at night," she said.
Roldan is a single mother with a 13 year old son, J.C., and a 12 year old daughter, Alissa. When she deployed last April, her mother retired and moved into their house to care for the kids. Roldan called home almost daily to hear their voices just before their bedtime.
"I had to get myself on a routine to make sure that I wouldn't get myself depressed or worry so much of what's going on at home because I knew they were in good hands," Roldan said.
Roldan returned home in late October. She's now stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. But the experience of her deployment is still fresh. She still tears up when she looks at the photograph of her return at Tampa International Airport.
"The minute I saw my kids, honestly, everybody else was a blur," she said. "They had grown so much since I was gone and even though I'd seen pictures, even though I talked to them on the phone, seeing them in person, it was very much an emotional time."
And since returning, she spends a lot more time with her daughter and son. She said she still feels as if she has to make up for the months she was away.
After missing Mother's Day last year, Roldan doesn't know what her children have planned this year. But she said her ideal is to stay home and grab a two hour nap.