- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Master Sgt. Janice Kent’s service with the D.C. National Guard leaves her torn between the job she loves and the children she adores.

Sgt. Kent, a single mother of three who has been in the D.C. National Guard for 24 years, has been deployed at least twice in the past three years, including a 15-month stint in Fort Eustis, Va.

Today, Sgt. Kent, 49, is one of hundreds of D.C. National Guardsmen in New Orleans helping with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. This time, her job has taken her away from home for at least 30 days.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, other than the Guard,” said Sgt. Kent, of the District. “I’ve been in [the National Guard] most of my life. But you’ve got to be a good mom and understand that those kids are only yours for a little while. It’s like they’re on loan from God.”

Sgt. Kent is one of 362 women in the D.C. National Guard who has spent parts of the past two years away from home working beside their fellow 899 male National Guard members either in Iraq, at Fort Dix, N.J., or Fort Eustis, where she provided logistics support for the war in Iraq.

Deployment for the women in the Guard is often more difficult than for their male counterparts. It forces them to put on hold their roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters to serve their country.

Staff Sgt. Angel Love-Shorter, 39, of the District, left her two teenagers at home with her husband two weeks ago when she was deployed to Belle Chasse Naval Air Station in New Orleans.

“Even though my children are older, they do need a mother’s voice,” she said. “It’s a good thing my husband is there, or I couldn’t stand to leave them.”

Sgt. Love-Shorter, who was on active duty in the U.S. Army for four years and has been in the D.C. National Guard for four years, said she knows how important her presence is to her son and daughter.

“Even if I do have a spouse, children are susceptible to motherly love. It plays a big, fat role in their lives,” she said. “They always tell me they do not want me to go, but we have a pact that we always say ‘I love you’ before going out the door no matter where we are going, so that helps.”

Life and work can be very difficult for the women in the Guard, especially for those who suffer a tragedy at home.

Three years ago, while Sgt. Kent was stationed at the D.C. Armory, her 25-year-old son was killed by a neighbor in an argument over $48. His body was discovered only last year, and the neighbor was convicted of second-degree murder, Sgt. Kent said.

She said her fellow Guard members helped her through the difficult time by stationing her at Fort Eustis, instead of Iraq, so she could be near her family, and by providing the emotional support she needed at the time.

“I have no family in D.C., zero,” she said. “The Guard has been really good to me. In those hard times, it was there for me, providing me support and stability. That’s something my parents weren’t able to give me.”

Because of her son’s death, leaving her youngest son, Monte Kent, now is particularly difficult.

Although Monte, 14, stays with Sgt. Kent’s 28-year-old son while she’s away, she realizes that every moment with her children is precious and wants to be near them as much as possible.

“Monte was really happy about me going on this mission” to help Katrina victims, Sgt. Kent said.

“But it’s hard, it really is, especially in the beginning of the school year or near the holidays. Having him there gives me something to look forward to for when I come home.”

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