The Herald Bulletin

June 9, 2013

Don McAllister: The bond between veterans and their mothers

By Don McAllister
For The Herald Bulletin

— Every day starts a new story. We recently traveled to Bellingham, Wash., to see our daughter and our new grandson. As happens on a long drive one begins to notice a pattern. This one resonated of mothers and veterans.

Our first Sunday we stopped for church in Medford, Minn. Like most Catholic churches in the West its sanctuary was elegant in its simplicity. The musicians were an unusual blend of guitar, banjo, and xylophone – a happy sound that was suited for the day. It was First Communion Sunday. I noticed one mother who was proud of her boy and perhaps a bit in prayer that he wouldn’t be too much of a boy till the service was over. Mother and boy, I’ve seen that special bond many times in our interviews.

In Missoula, MT we stayed at Ruby’s Inn where I saw a collage of family photos featuring a WWII Marine from the 4th Division. I asked an employee about the photo and he replied with several great stories of the motel owner and his family’s service. I wished I had the camera.

In Bellingham I met a serviceman who had flown F-86 Sabre jets. Like so many of our interviewees he was unpretentious, and fascinating to the maximum. Again I wished I had the camera. The next day was Sunday. It was our daughter’s first Mother’s Day.

Mothers and veterans – I thought about that theme on the long drive home. I thought of Charles King and how he “Heard his mother’s voice” one night warning him to be careful. That night Dr. King’s position was overrun. That extra bit of caution saved his life.

I thought of Frank Mack and his vision of his mother as his landing craft approached Okinawa. He saw her at church in a dress she made for that Easter. One year later, in his mother’s kitchen, she brought out the dress she had made for that previous Easter. It was the same dress Frank had seen in his dream.

I thought of Frank Robeton’s mother who forbade the family to tell Frank she was dying. He was in a combat zone. She was afraid the distraction would cause her son to make a fatal mistake. I remember how the tender hearted soldier at Anzio cried when he received the news of his mother’s death.

Mothers and veterans. There have been many interviews where we hear of a dying buddy calling for his mother. Perhaps the bond is so strong because mothers are the antithesis of war. Mothers are life, and safety, and love. To a boy who has been drained of that by the crudeness of war it means so much.

I’m proud of our daughter. There a re times when motherhood leaves her ragged and stressed. I’m sure there are moments when she wants to chuck it all, but she continues to respond to her call with a mother’s love. I pray for grace, strength, and love as she molds our grandson’s story.

Don McAllister directs the National Veteran’s Historical Archive. His column appears the second Sunday of each month. He can be reached at and