‘It Takes a Mom’ interview series highlights our recent Mother of the Year® honorees by sharing their stories every week. These moms from across the country contribute to our collective voice as mothers. They show us how they harness their maternal energy and how it really does take a mom to do it all! Here’s our interview with Deona Jo Sutterfield, 2021 Texas Mother of the Year®.
What does it mean to you being selected Mother of the Year® for your state?
It’s a true honor. I wasn’t born and raised in Texas. The military brought us here, and in the last three years, I’ve seen Texas in a whole new light. I knew Texas as a military family, as a soldier, as a member of the Texas National Guard. And when my son was injured in a fire, I really got to see the beauty of the people in this community and this state. Without the kindness that we have experienced from the people in Texas and in the world, I don’t know that we would have made it through what we’ve been through. I’ve had people reach out that I don’t know and they have become great friends. I met a lot of wonderful moms, and just to represent them and keep them in my heart and in my back pocket going through this—it makes me very proud to be the Texas Mother of the Year®.
What do you love most about being a mom?
I love the challenge. With each child, it’s different. So raising them, you’re going to raise them each differently. Our oldest son had ADHD as he was growing up. So that was difficult, but we worked through it. We had to parent him differently than we parented our younger son, Zachary—the one that is currently going through the trauma. The greatest thing is that it’s challenging, but it’s so rewarding. After all these years and all the sacrifice, I have two of my best friends. That is the best feeling ever as you’re parenting, you’re growing, and they’re growing. Our friendship grew. Right now, I can be more of a mentor to them versus their mom. I can be their friend. And I think that’s the thing I love most about being a mom—the way you transition with your children.
Your son is amazing and he’s overcome so many things. There’s got to be days when he wanted to just give up and say, “You know, Mom, this is enough.” What did you do for him to encourage him to not give up?
I remind him that God kept him alive and that there was a purpose for him. I didn’t know what that purpose was at the time. By just reminding him of all the people praying for him, God’s mercy on that morning—it had to push us through. Some days he didn’t want to go, and some days he still doesn’t. But I’m not just his mom now, I’m his advocate. I’m his friend. And sometimes you just have to be honest with your child or your friend. It’s tough love, but a great love. I think it did really build an amazing relationship with my youngest son. But I also built a great relationship with my oldest son. I wasn’t able to be right there holding him when I was taking care of his brother. But I was still able to give him the tough love. “No, you have to go to work.” “No, you can’t be down here.”
How do you and your family get involved in the community?
This is going to sound funny but in the military, you’re very into volunteering in the community that’s supporting the base, that is supporting the families that move in and out of that area. My family pretty much supports anything I want to do and I’m grateful for that. Carl was gone a lot when the boys were being raised, so volunteering is a cheap way to show your children the world, to show them different personalities and different people. I think that’s why we got involved in volunteering. I wanted my children to be able to meet other people, be around different cultures, get out, and support a community that’s going to support them during the hard times.
At American Mothers, the Golden Rule Movement provides a platform for women who embody the selfless caring spirit of motherhood, and who are using their maternal energy to make the world a better place. How would you say you exemplify the golden rule in your everyday life?
Currently, my goal is to not ever have another mother go through what my son has gone through. I’m working with our local fire prevention expert. And we’re building a nonprofit. Very excited. I want to teach moms what to do when they send their kids out into the world. Whether you’re sending them off to the military, they’re going off to college, or they just want to move out on their own because they’ve got a good job and they’re becoming adults. But we’ve got to remind them about the safety features and what to look for.
Deona Jo “DJ” Sutterfield, Texas’s 69th Mother of the Year®, is a wife, mother of two, caregiver, and advocate for her son Zachary, who was critically injured in an apartment fire in July 2018. She joined the military at a young age and served as a medic with the US Army and Hawaii National Guard, and also served with the Texas National Guard. Deona spent much of her life as a proud military spouse traveling all over the world with her husband and their two rambunctious boys. In 2006 she graduated with honors from Angelo State University. In 2017 she deployed with FEMA during Hurricane Irma. Today, her mission has changed, but her desire to protect and serve has not. Deona now spends her time advocating for fire safety. She is currently working with the local university and fire prevention professionals to bring awareness to her community and the state of Texas.