Single mother Sandra Torres was 7,800 miles away from her daughter Victoria for the past six months.


Torres, a petty officer second class with the US Navy, was stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province in Afghanistan with the 9th Communication Battalion, working as a hospital corpsman.


"We talked a lot about it beforehand," Torres said. "I showed her on the map where I would be."


Even as Torres served in Afghanistan, Victoria kept track of the weeks until her mother returned home.


"She was able to watch" for her mother's return "on the calendar."


After eight years in the military, this deployment was the first time Torres had to be separated from her daughter from an extended period.


But Victoria, with the help of her first grade class at Hesperia Christian School, stayed in touch with Torres.


"They were sending me stuff the entire time I was there," including cards, notes, letters and drawings. And Torres also received special letters from Mrs. Scott, Victoria's teacher, giving her updates on how her daughter was doing in school.


"The letters were great. We'd all get a kick out of them. Some of the things they said were amazing."


Although she wasn't home in Hesperia to care for her daughter, she had 258 marines to keep an eye on at Camp Leatherneck.


"I'm a believer in my marines and supporting them. That's why I'm there," she said Friday. "I feel like I have to be there to take care of them."


The marines dealt with a lot of upper respiratory infections due to all the dust in Afghanistan. Torres would handle all the minor complaints, but would act as a caseworker for the marines when they had to be referred to the nearby British military hospital for more serious care.


Torres has long wanted a career in medicine, but because she was squeamish, originally planned on being a pharmacist. Bt at her second posting, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, she was assigned to assist with births and delivery, and got over her squeamishness in a hurry.


Upon her return to the United States, Torres visited her daughter's class, answering questions posed by the students and presenting them with a flag that was flown over Camp Leatherneck.


"It was my trip to Afghanistan that made me want to reenlist," she said. "Seeing the bigger picture."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.