#MyMomIsStrongBecause she never, ever gave up when things got hard. Not before, not now, not ever.

One of my most vivid memories from the Marine Corps was a particularly vicious hill called Recon. When training for a tough physical endurance test or trying to get back into fighting shape following a tough deployment, I would often have to throw on my 50-lb pack and stare down that beast of a hill as I began the climb.

My mother is sixty-eight years old, and I can safely say that she is way tougher and stronger than I am. Every day, she gets up at the crack of dawn, puts on her boots and jacket, and begins doing “the hill.” “The hill” is an insanely steep one-mile slope that leads to the base of the mountain where my parents live. It makes Recon look like a bunny slope at your favorite ski resort. Every day, she hikes down the hill one mile back up that insanely steep slope another mile, and then she continues on past the house further up the hill a third mile, and then back finally to the house for the fourth mile. She does this every day…at sixty-eight! She would give me or any of my other operator buddies a run for our money any day.

My mom is incredibly strong – and not just physically. Her physical strength only scratches the surface of her true strength. Over the years, I have learned so much from her about strength, perseverance, and resilience. We grew up on a small farm with little money. Times were tough, and my parents had to stretch the money we did have to ensure that they could put food on the table and provide for my three siblings and me. As kids, even though we were technically poor, we didn’t know it. My mom was constantly positive – encouraging us to use our imagination and get outside to explore the world around us. Couch pillows became elaborate forts. Pots and pans became a ready-made symphony. Grapevines and rock quarries were magical kingdoms to explore and play in.

Looking back, she must have been so afraid sometimes. So tired. There were four of us kids – only five years separating the oldest from the youngest. I look at my friends who have small children now – their first one or maybe two kids…and it seems like absolute chaos! I look back at my mom and marvel – wondering, how on earth did she do it? How did she raise all four of us with so few resources without any major disasters??

Moms are a special breed. In the work I do now with Nuru, many of the toughest farmers I work with are moms. Moms do most of the farm work. They take care of the children. They collect water and firewood. They look after the livestock. They are tough. They are resilient. They are the hope for their families and their communities. As I move through the villages working with these brave women, I am often reminded of my own mom, and I can’t help but be overcome by a sense of gratitude for the hard work and sacrifice that she made to enable me to get to where I am today.

So this Mother’s Day, I want to thank all moms everywhere for being the inspiration and backbone of our families and communities. And I want to thank my own mom…without you, I would not be what I am today. Thank you for your sacrifice, your strength, your resilience, and your refusal to give up when things got really hard. You’ve taught me so much, and I am so thankful for your example – even if I am still desperately out of breath when you make me walk the hill with you!

Love you mom,