What began as an attempt to boost her GPA soon turned into a 22-year career for my mom, Ramona Lee Discavage.
On the first day of her freshman year at St. Bonaventure University in 1989, members of the Army ROTC Seneca Battalion helped incoming freshmen move their stuff into their dorm rooms. Afterward, they invited all of the freshmen to a lunch.
“When they described the program, they basically said, ‘It’s an easy way to get an A,’ and I was all about my GPA,” she said. “I said, ‘Sure I have some time; let me take this ROTC thing.’ ”
It was after her freshman year that my mom realized she was doing well at what she did with ROTC, so she decided to devote more time to it her sophomore year.
“I decided to take it a little more seriously to see if ROTC was really serious for me,” she said.
Her hard work paid off. She was invited to basic camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, after her sophomore year. The rigorous four-week program trained recruits in military leadership as they competed for ROTC scholarships. My mom was one of those who earned the scholarship.
Upon graduation in 1993, my mom was given an active duty role in the Army.
My mom’s official company command photo when she was a captain
“I was not intending on making it a career,” she said. “As I served as a lieutenant, I realized that I was able to serve my country, and I could help my fellow soldiers complete a mission.”
My mother met my father, Carlton Discavage, during the summer of 1993. She was staying in Francis Hall working for Residential Life while he was taking summer classes at the university. They were married in August of 1994.
My parents at last year’s military ball
As with any member of the military, she found herself moving with my family every few years. Chicago, Seoul and Germany are only a few of the locations that we have lived in.
Initially, all the moving was tough, but my family slowly adapted to the idea of it by our fifth or sixth move.
“It was difficult at first,” my dad said. “After a while, we settled into a routine.”
I, along with my three siblings Teri, Chris and Joey, adapted easily because it was the only thing we knew growing up. We never lived in one place longer than four years.
“It can be a bit of an adventure,” my dad said. “There’s also a lot of stress involved.”
Because being in the military forces means service during times of war, my mom found herself being deployed to Afghanistan in January of 2010.
“I knew that I was due for a deployment,” she recalled. “The wars with Iraq and Afghanistan had been in effect for almost ten years at that point. I knew I was up. Everyone knew it was coming; it was just a matter of when.”
The timing of her deployment was unfortunate as the family had only returned to Germany one week after attending her father’s funeral. She was told that she would be shipped out to Afghanistan less than a month after she got orders to deploy.
“Life was difficult at that point,” she said as she thought back to the difficult month.
After arriving at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, my mom was assigned to a military intelligence unit as the foreign disclosure officer.
“It was my job to look at the material my unit was producing and determine what was releasable to other nationalities,” she said. “If we had a document, we would take out this sentence or that sentence, and the rest would now be releasable to the Germans, to the Brits, to the Afghans, depending on whom we were discussing.”
Looking back at essentially a single parent at home in Germany, my father said, “It was difficult at first. The older ones were able to help.”
My mother returned to Germany from Afghanistan in February 2011.
Currently a lieutenant colonel, she still lives with my father and siblings in Germany, where she has the role of Inspector General, ensuring that all of the soldiers in the 5th Signal Command, encompassing Germany, Italy, Belgium, England and North Africa, are up to date on military regulation and operating properly to make sure that everything is going according to plan.
“I am the eyes, ears and conscience of the commander,” she said. “It is my job to ensure that regulations are followed. We provide a means for folks who feel they have been wronged to have their voices heard.”
Looking forward, my family is scheduled to leave Germany in the summer of 2016. My mom will have finished her term as Inspector General. Currently, it is too early to tell which jobs will be open for her next.
“They have not even gotten to the point where they know what assignments are available yet,” she said.
My mom with her two younger brothers, Eric (center) and Sol (right), shortly after Sol joined the Marines
When she looks back on her career, she will tell you there is one thing she gained from St. Bonaventure that is still a big part of her life.
“The family feeling of St. Bonaventure is something that I enjoyed,” my mom said. “And the Army, in its way, is also a family to me.
“I simply moved from my family at home to my family at school to my family in the Army.”
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