Valor is “great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.”¹ I can think of no bigger struggle fraught with more danger than the battle of Matern-ageddon. Before I render my tribute to mothers, let’s quickly revisit another famous battle.
In the first century, Sparta was known for its elite class of fighting warriors. A select class of citizens was trained in the art of war from birth to death. Day and night they hardened their bodies and strengthened their minds to defend their cities from invading armies. In return for military service, these Spartiates received a portion of land.
Marines are much like the Spartan warriors of old. They are the toughest soldiers in the world. They train harder, move faster, and adapt more quickly to rapidly changing conditions than any force in the world. They are feared. They are respected. They run toward the sound of chaos. In the words of General James Mattis, USMC (Ret.):
There is “no better friend, no worse enemy.”
But behind every Marine is a woman—a wife, a mother—who is her own breed of warrior.
Every married service member should lavish their mothers-in-law with thanks for enduring the hardships which accompany a life of service. The pride of having a son or daughter serve comes with a price.
Their children will travel the world as they train to fight our nation’s battles. They will be gone most of the time. They might not be home for Christmas, and they probably can’t tell you when you’ll see them next.
Mothers of service members don’t expect many visits. When their child is deployed, a bit of nausea follows every phone ring until the caller-ID allays their worst fear.
Marines have one of the toughest jobs in the world, but the serving spouse makes the greater sacrifice. They must thrive in the midst of a discouraging fear: the unknown.
The cycle of angst and uncertainty repeats every few years: where will we go? Where will we live? How long will we be there? How long will you be gone? What about the kids? How are we going to make this work?
If she is a mother, then she has made the greatest sacrifice. When I am asked which of our five children transformed our lives most significantly, the answer is easy: the first. When a mother has a child, she quickly understands “it’s not about me anymore.” She has begun a whole new life of service.
Mothers are the true Spartan warriors of our day. They don’t receive land for their service. The rewards they reap are far greater.
In Steven Pressfield’s epic novel Gates of Fire, King Leonidas reveals a closely guarded secret to a grieving mother and widow of two Spartan warriors felled in the Battle of Thermopylae. The woman’s wife and son were among 300 chosen to defend the city from 20,000 attacking Persian soldiers. The king reveals how the 300 were chosen:
“I chose them not for their own valor . . . but for that of their women.”²
Let’s face it. There is no one tougher than a mother.
Thanks, Mom. Have you thanked yours today?
- While He’s Away: A Poem About Being Gone
- A Father’s Legacy: Memories From a Thankful Son
- Choose Life: Defending Our Most Vulnerable and Precious Gifts
¹Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Oxford Dictionary of English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Kindle edition, loc. 762342.
²Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire (New York: Bantam Dell, 1998), 372.
(Image from Pixabay)