Did you know that the national success of Mother’s Day can be directly linked in large part to the military? Even though Mother’s Day began in 1908, and given federal recognition by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, it was still not widely celebrated by the American public. But that all changed when American entered World War One in 1917. With so many troops deployed overseas, the military leaders put great emphasis on honoring mothers. On May 8, 1918, Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing declared, “I wish that every officer and soldier of the [American Expeditionary Forces] would write a letter home on Mother’s Day. This is a little thing for each one to do, but these letters will carry back our courage and our affection to the patriotic women whose love and prayers inspire us and cheer us on to victory.”
The war ended in November 1918, but military leaders wanted to ensure that Veterans kept up the tradition of honoring their mothers. In a telegram on May 9, 1919, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a reminder about Mother’s Day to all the Navy: “I trust that no one who has a mother still living will neglect to write or if possible, visit her on this occasion period. No sacrifices during the war have been more severe or borne with more bravery and cheerfulness than the sacrifices of the mothers of America.”
By those actions, and many others, Mother’s Day finally became widely popular in our culture as a time to honor motherhood in general, and our own mothers in specific.
So, what can we do to show our appreciation to Military mothers and to honor them this Mother’s Day? Here are some general suggestions to help us do as the writer of Proverbs describes, “Her children bless her; her husband praises her: ‘Many women act competently, but you surpass them all.’” (31:28-29)
- If you know a single mother who is in the military, you can offer to give her a break. Surprise her by bringing her a meal. Offer to babysit so she can do something she enjoys, such as seeing a movie or going to a spa. Mow her lawn, shovel her snow, or any other yardwork that might be needed. I know one single mom who came home after duty to find a bag hanging on her door. It was close to Mother’s Day. In the bag were microwave popcorn, some boxes of movie candy, and some soft drinks. Inside was an anonymous note that simply said, “You deserve a party. Enjoy these at your next family movie night.” She cried as she told me the story. It made her feel appreciated. It was perfect.
- If your mother is still alive, it is always appropriate to send a meaningful Mother’s Day card. Take your time in selecting it. Find one that reflects what you would like to say but just can’t find the right words. You could also send or give a gift like flowers, sweets, or healthy edible arrangements. But nothing beats letting your mother hear your voice. You may be grown, but you are still her baby. Whether she tells you or not she still worries about you serving in the military. Hearing your voice and perhaps seeing you on platforms like Zoom can mean the world to a mother.
- If you have children, then you need to find special ways to honor your wife. This should not be reserved just for Mother’s Day, but that is as good a day as any to begin. Arrange for a babysitter and take her out to dinner at a place you selected. Surprise her with a picnic, in your home or outdoors. Consider making her dinner (even if it is only spaghetti) while she gets to relax (of course you have cleaned up as well!). Give her a meaningful card that reflects how proud you are of her and how grateful you are for her. If you are no good at words, you can find meaningful suggestions of things to write just by searching the internet. Most wives are not impressed by expensive gifts, but rather prefer things that show you put thought into them. Don’t forget to get the children involved! They should make Mother’s Day cards, and depending on their ages, even help you plan a picnic, dinner, or other event.
- If you are deployed, arrange ahead of time for things to reach your wife on such important days as Mother’s Day, her birthday, your anniversary, and other days such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Put as much thought into preparing to honor your wife as you did in preparing to deploy! If your wife is deployed over Mother’s Day, check with her unit about mail service. Sending her a special care package that her family put together can have a huge impact. If possible, make a video recording of each family member telling Mom how much they love and miss her, and wishing her a happy Mother’s Day. Find a way for her to bring that with her, such as on a thumb drive, with the promise that she will not open it until Mother’s Day. See if Zoom calls or Facetime are possible, remembering of course the time difference.
We should heed the wise words of Roosevelt and not neglect our Military mothers on Mother’s Day. They have sacrificed more than we will ever know or appreciate and done so with bravery and cheerfulness. Whatever your circumstance, make the time to honor the mothers in your life this Mother’s Day.