Rigors of military life make Sewickley mother-daughter bond special

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Over the years, single mom Tina Minoski and her daughter, Samantha, a Quaker Valley High School sophomore, sometimes didn't see each other on Mother's Day.

As a U.S. Army major, the Sewickley mom has had to travel quite a bit and she and her daughter have moved numerous times, but they said they've made it work and have stayed close.

Tina, who signed up for the military when she was 17 during her senior year in the Southmoreland School District in Westmoreland County, is a reservist who works up to 60 hours a week ­ — sometimes even on her “free day” on Sunday.

She sets up funeral honors for military veterans in six surrounding counties and helps with youth services at the U.S. Army 316 Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Moon Township.

Although Tina hasn't traveled extensively for a while and will be with her daughter this Mother's Day, she didn't see her for an entire year while she served in Iraq in 2003. Samantha, then 6 and in kindergarten, stayed with Tina's parents in Reading.

Samantha said the only things she remembers from that time is her mother leaving and then returning.

“When she came back, she had two jobs. I remember sitting and crying on the porch when she left to go to work, but that only lasted a little while,” she said.

Tina, who studied special education and music at Slippery Rock University, began working as an emotional support teacher in Reading, a job she held before going to Iraq. At one point, she also was in charge of convoy survivability training at the 99th Regional Support Command, located in Moon at the time.

Although Samantha said some military children get angry when their parents have to leave — and Samantha said she has had “glimpses” of such feelings — she and her mother agreed it hasn't affected their relationship.

Throughout the years, Tina and Samantha have been melding their two lives together as Samantha has gotten involved in military activities, and Tina has supported her daughter's non-military interests.

For her personal project in high school, Samantha created a booklet outlining all the resources available to military families in the area and categorized them for students, parents and teachers.

It will be available at the Army Strong Community Center at the 316th.

In her personal project reflection letter, Samantha wrote that she believes she grew up quickly and is more independent because she is the daughter of a single military mom.

“I had to learn to do dishes and the laundry and cook, somewhat,” she said.

She also wrote about feeling more comfortable since she and her mom have lived in one place in Sewickley since she was in fifth grade.

Samantha also joined the organization Speak Out for Military Kids, where she made food and helped the smaller children at a cooking healthy event in March; recorded a public service announcement about Military Kids Month in April at the Pittsburgh Radio Disney station; and is planning a sleepover for military children at Carnegie Mellon University and a visit to the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum.

A Girl Scout senior cadet, Samantha also recruited a local Girl Scout troop to make a Speak Out banner for the group to carry in Sewickley's Memorial Day Parade May 27 to try to make people aware of the program. She also will be marching and playing the clarinet with the Quaker Valley marching band in the parade.

In addition, Samantha is a volunteer for the 316th Family Readiness Group, helping younger children at various family gatherings.

Tina recently took some time off to travel to the U.S. All Star Federation world competition in Florida to see Samantha and her group from Coyote Cheer and Dance studio in Moon Township compete.

She also presented a program about her experiences in Iraq to her daughter's high school class; helped with wardrobe changes when Samantha competed in the Miss Junior Teen pageant held in November in New Kensington; and urged her to be involved in QV's winterguard program.

For Mother's Day this year, Tina and Samantha will visit Tina's mother and go out to dinner. Then Tina's mom will come and visit them to help place flowers in hanging planters.

“We are pretty low-key people,” Tina said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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