As much fun as we had chilling by the pool, eating fun things and watching fireworks with friends this 4th of July it’s important to be reminded that the holiday is really all about the people in charge of protecting our freedom: the men and women who serve in the armed forces. This past weekend, the moms of the armed forces got an extra “thank you,” and it’s actually pretty game changing.

The military has not always been a super welcoming place for women, but recently one branch made a huge stride towards that goal. The Associated Press reports that last week the Navy tripled the amount of paid maternity leave soldiers were allowed to take. The leave was increased for female sailors and Marines from six weeks to 18 weeks. According to the AP “about 5,000 women would be eligible for the benefit each year, including 500 officers.” This increase will give women in the military more time to get things set up with their newborn before returning to work.

A lot of attention is being paid recently to the idea that more and more women are juggling work and kids. Even our president got in on the action, saying that “when women succeed, America succeeds.” When women (and increasingly, men) have adequate time to spend with their families, their productivity increases as does their overall morale making them better, more effective workers. This new increase can only help the Navy’s recent initiative to add 25% more women per ship to their workforce and here’s hoping that other branches of the military (and other civilian companies) follow suit.

How much maternity leave did you get and was it enough? Let us know in the comments.

(h/t Associated Press, Photos via U.S. Navy/Getty)