Master Sergeant Judy Betancourt found her calling in military service. A self-described female warrior, she's served 24 years in the Army, deploying overseas six times. But the job she loves has come at a personal cost. Her decision to remain on active duty after the birth of her son Christian meant months and years away from him.
"Being away from my son has definitely been a stressor," said Betancourt. One way she copes with is that separation is to look for aspects of her own child in the young men and women who report to her.
"These soldiers are my children, and I'm their surrogate parent, and I have a responsibility not only to them, but to their own parents," said Betancourt. "Their parents trusted us to take care of them, so I'm going to take care of them and teach them all I know as they maneuver and go to different places in the Army. That's what has helped keep me focused on the mission and dealing with the struggles of being away from my child."
Betancourt has come to cherish her role as a mentor to young soldiers.
"Maybe that's my legacy in the military, " she said. "So if I die, my essence, and my knowledge base, and leadership skills can be passed on to other generations of non-commissioned officers and leaders."
Her son, Christian, now 14, is following in his mother's footsteps, pursuing a future in the military through his high school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org