I am not a veteran and I am not a military family member. But I have had the honor and privilege of knowing many military families over the last seven years. My father served in the Navy during WWII long before I was born. He taught me about service, honor and integrity. And I am the mother of two beautiful girls who enjoy the freedom and security of life in America because of the service of the 1% who defend and protect our country.
Mother’s Day is coming—and many of us will enjoy brunch or dinners out with our families. We will receive lovely gifts or sweet cards or beautiful flowers. We will be pampered for the day, and we will delight in the efforts of our children and spouses as they express the appreciation and love they feel for us. And of course our country’s retail industry will join in and benefit from the celebration of the day, with sales and deals for Mom. You can’t get much more American than Mother’s Day.
Yet there are many military moms who will not be enjoying this Mother’s Day. They will not feel like celebrating, and they will not be pampered. Thousands of mothers across our country will spend Mother’s Day just like they spend every day: praying that their son or daughter remains safe for one more day, hoping that their child comes home without injuries including invisible wounds of war that can disrupt lives and destroy futures. For these mothers, there will be no relief from worry until their children come home from serving in harm’s way. Many will do an excellent job of joining in the celebration for others—their sisters, their friends—and they will convince us that they are fine. And indeed they are coping and they are strong, but they are also hurting.
There are also military spouses who will spend the day caring for their children on their own, as they have done for so many days because their spouse is deployed. They don’t have a partner at home to help the kids make Mom breakfast in bed or pick flowers from the garden or make those adorable handmade cards and gifts or give them an afternoon to themselves. These military spouses will hold their children tight on Sunday; they will think of their husbands, their partners and pray for their safe and healthy return. They too will carry on for their children, and themselves, because it is what they must try to do. But they carry a heavy burden that many of us can never truly understand.
And then there are the mothers who have lost children during these wars. They may visit graves on Sunday or engage in other private acts of remembrance. For them, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of the loss of one so dear. For those of us who have children, it is the greatest loss we can imagine. And for these mothers we should all weep.
Within the military community the saying “we take care of our own” truly does apply. Military wives and mothers reach out to and support one another. Families provide assistance, offering respite and distraction from the strain of constant worry or the brutality of unbearable pain. But our country has not quite figured out how to join in this support. As civilians, we don’t know how to reach out, what to say. But we can learn and we should try.
This Mother’s Day, let’s look for those in our neighborhoods and communities who may not be able to celebrate this holiday—because a child is serving, a spouse is deployed, or they are grieving. Offer kindness through words or deeds. Reach out: you may be surprised by what you can do to support those who serve, their wives, and their mothers.