Carol Weinman has been through some tough times. Fifteen years ago, a connective tissue disease disabled her. Four years later, her marriage broke apart.
But none of that compares to waking each day knowing her two children are halfway across the world, serving their country and risking their lives.
Weinman, 53, is a military mother. Her son, Spc. Sean Weinman, has been in the Army for five years and served in Iraq. Her daughter, Cpl. Jenna Weinman, joined the Marines three years ago and is stationed in Japan.
"There's a lot of fear when they're over there, especially when they aren't inside the wires, as they call it, inside the compound," said Weinman, who lives in Bemus Point.
To cope with the anxiety and her longing for her children, Weinman joined the Chautauqua County chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America, military moms who meet regularly and make care packages and other items to send to soldiers.
She has rushed across the country to comfort her children, helped them pay their bills at times and put her fragile health in jeopardy just to see them. Last year, she traveled more than 7,000 miles to Okinawa, Japan, to see Jenna.
Sometimes, though, it's just nice to talk with other military moms who are experiencing the rush of emotions that comes with having a child overseas.
"You can talk with people who understand what you're going through," Weinman said.
Weinman's situation isn't uncommon. Another member of the Chautauqua County group has two children in the military, as does a mother from the Buffalo-Niagara chapter of Blue Star Mothers.
For Weinman, nothing compared to when her daughter left for college and her son left for the military -- on the same day.
"That was a day full of hugs and tears and a mother saying goodbye to her child and letting them fly," she said. "But I guess that's what a mother does, starting from the day they're born -- to help them grow up and let them go."
Even as he dodged enemy fire in the sands of Iraq, Spc. Sean Weinman had his mother on his mind.
After all, he said, she was the one who "does everything for us," who helped shepherd her children through their problems while dealing with an unrelenting illness.
"She gave me my values," he said. "She gave me my understanding of life. She's been my friend -- we have had tough times and good times, but she's always been there, no matter what."
She's also the one who wrote her daughter a letter every day she was in Marine boot camp, sent "just because" cards to keep her motivated and, when she needed it, gave her a stern talk.
"She has fought cruel and unjust battles with kindness and compassion," Cpl. Jenna Weinman wrote from Japan. "She is my motivation and my purpose ... through the grace of God, she always makes it work."
Weinman, a former computer consultant, has thrown herself into volunteer work at Bemus Point United Methodist Church. She also volunteers at St. Susan Center soup kitchen in Jamestown and is the leader of a group for people with chronic illnesses.
"She does something wonderful and then spends the next day in bed because of her pain," wrote Susan Rowley, president of the local Blue Star Mothers chapter. "She uses all she has."
Weinman said her strength comes from two sources -- her faith and the children she loves.
"Without my faith, I wouldn't be here," she said. "It's helped me through my disability, it's helped me raise my children -- it's everything."