Every year on the second Sunday of May, we celebrate Mother’s Day. A once a year recognition of a mother’s sacrifice just doesn’t seem to bestow the justified tribute a mother deserves. Mothers are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Mothers are cooks, maids, ministers, shoppers, teachers, nurses, schedulers, drivers, handywoman, photographers, counselors, security officers and even alarm clocks. And they do all of this, and more, with relentless and uncompromising love.
A mother’s heart is for her children. When you listen to a mother pray, you will almost always hear heartfelt prayers for her children. Whenever I listen to my wife Nancy pray, she will consistently, and without ceasing, pray for our children and grandchildren.
In today’s post, I want to focus on the sacrifice a mother makes during times of war. One of the most difficult things a mother can do is send her child off to war. During those demanding times, she lives through a mix of emotions ranging from indescribable fear to a deep sense of pride combined with her faith and dependence on God.
Saving Private Ryan
Do you remember the story behind the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan?
The film tells the account of Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks), who leads a U.S. Army platoon during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. A few days into the invasion, Captain Miller receives new orders to locate and rescue Private First Class James F. Ryan (played by Matt Damon). Private Ryan’s three brothers died in combat within a few months of each other. Private Ryan was the sole-surviving son and the U.S. War Department was determined to get him home to his mother.
The film draws on the story of an actual soldier named Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” Niland and a U.S. War Department directive designed to keep families from losing every one of their sons. Edward, Preston, Robert and Frederick Niland of Tonawanda, New York, a town just north of Buffalo, were the sons of Michael and Augusta Niland. After the reported deaths of his three brothers, Fritz was sent back to the United States to complete his military service. Later it was learned that Fritz’s brother Edward, who was missing and presumed dead, was actually alive in a Japanese POW camp.
The Sullivan Brothers
Tragically, there’s been far too many stories of mothers loosing multiple sons during times of war. One of the most horrific stories in our country’s history was that of Alleta Sullivan who received the news that all five of her sons (George, Frank, Joe, Matt and Al) had been lost at sea after their ship, USS Juneau (CL-52), was sunk on November 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II.
The Sullivan brothers (pictured in the feature image of this post) enlisted in the U.S. Navy with the stipulation that they would serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but it was not strictly enforced. Following World War II, the Military Selective Service Act of 1948 exempted the “sole surviving son” of a family, where one or more sons or daughters had been killed in action or died in the line of duty, from being drafted either in peacetime or wartime.
The U.S. Navy named two ships to honor the Sullivan brothers. First, USS The Sullivans (DD-537), a Fletcher-class destroyer commissioned in 1943. Then, USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer commissioned in 1997. These were the first U.S. Navy ships ever named after more than one person.
Honoring A Mother’s Sacrifice
I now want to honor the sacrifice of the mothers of my family ancestral line throughout the history of the United States. Here are the names of these remarkable women and the names of their children they sent off to serve their country and defend liberty.
Anna Spaulding (1717-1770), my 6th great-grandmother: Anna sent four of her sons to serve in the American Revolution. Captain Benjamin Spaulding (New Hampshire Militia), Private James Spaulding (7th Continental Regiment), Private Silas Spaulding (Prescott’s Minutemen) and Private Phineas Spaulding (Massachusetts Militia).
Nancy Spaulding (1801-1876), my 3rd great-grandmother: Nancy sent her two sons to fight in the Civil War to preserve the Union and end slavery. Private Henry Spaulding (1st Illinois Light Artillery) and Private Oscar Spaulding (2nd Massachusetts Infantry) who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia.
Azuba Spaulding (1816-1906), my 4th great-aunt: Azuba sent her son Private Henry Spaulding (1st Vermont Calvary) to fight in the Civil War. Henry died in the notorious Andersonville POW Camp in Georgia.
Elizabeth Renfro (1809-1901), my 3rd great-grandmother: Elizabeth released her three sons to serve in the Civil War. Private William Renfro (1st Illinois Light Artillery), Private John Renfro (9th Illinois Calvary) and Private George Renfro (9th Illinois Calvary) who was just fifteen when he enlisted.
Mary Ella Spaulding (1863-1932), my great-grandmother: Mary Ella sent her son, Radioman and Navy Reservist, Benjamin Spaulding (USS Coghlan (DD- 326) and USS Flusser (DD-289), to serve during and after World War I.
Helen Katherine Momberger (1868-1922), my great-grandmother: Helen sent her son and daughter to serve in World War I. Sergeant Edwin Momberger (309th Infantry, 78th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces) and Yeoman Second Class Florence Momberger (Naval Ordnance Command).
Eva Louise Spaulding (1891-1976), my grandmother: Eva sent her two sons of The Greatest Generation to fight in World War II. Staff Sergeant Bob Spaulding (301st Bombardment Group, 419th Bomb Squadron) and Staff Sergeant Jim Spaulding (86th Infantry Division, 343rd Infantry Regiment).
Catherine Marie Spaulding (1926-2021), my aunt: Catherine released her son to serve in the war in Vietnam. Staff Sergeant Larry Spaulding (604th Transportation Company).
Margaret “Peg” Spaulding (1923-2008), my aunt. Peg released her son to serve in the war in Vietnam. Sergeant Bobby Spaulding (35th Security Police Squadron).
Dorothy Elsie Spaulding (1916-2008), my mother: Dorothy released her son Private First Class Bob Spaulding (Fort Dix) to serve during the Cold War. She also gave her son Lieutenant Commander Dale Spaulding to serve a career in the U.S. Navy during the Cold War and Gulf War (USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42), USS Hunley (AS-31), USS Dale (CG-19) and USS Puget Sound (AD-38) with shore duty assignments at NCTAMSLANT and COMOPTEVFOR).
Mary Jane Spaulding, my sister-in-law: Mary released her sons to serve during the Cold War. Sergeant John Spaulding (6924th Electronic Security Squadron) and Aviation Structural Mechanic Second Class Tony Spaulding (USS Forrestal (CV-59), USS George Washington (CVN-73) and VS-27).
Jann Louise Buck, my sister: Jann sent her son to serve during the Cold War. Builder First Class Gary Buck served a career in the U.S. Navy Seabees on active duty and as a reservist (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. Naval Facility Lewes, Delaware and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One.
Mary Louise Buck, my nephew’s wife: Mary released her son to serve in the Global War on Terror and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Technical Sergeant Bryan Buck (Germany, Iraq, United Arab Emirates).
I can only imagine the sweet aroma of the prayers of these mothers as their words permeating the hallowed halls of heaven. Day after day these mothers approached the throne of God interceding on behalf of their children as they were serving their beloved country and defending liberty.
May we forever find strength and solace through a mother’s sacrifice.
- File: “Sullivanbrothers.jpg” from the U.S. Naval Historical Center is in the public domain and was accessed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sullivan_brothers#/media/File:Sullivanbrothers.jpg on April 13, 2022.
- File: “US_Navy_090213-N-4774B-028_The_guided-missile_destroyer_USS_The_Sullivans_(DDG_68)_flies_the_ship’s_battle_flags_during_exercises_at_sea.jpg” is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.
2 thoughts on “A Mother’s Sacrifice”
Dale – Thanks for this neat article. I had the honor of serving on The Sullivans as a Midshipman during the summer of 1962, just before the photo in your article was taken. I loved visiting The Sullivans on a road trip to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park during 2008 and posted a YouTube video: https://bit.ly/3PCLlrF. Earlier this year The Sullivans started taking on water and was listing badly. However, folks came to the rescue and it is now upright – as were the Sullivan Brothers. <
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Well I was about to comment that my dad served on The Sullivans but he beat me to it. Thanks for honoring these moms and the sacrifices they made.
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