Mothers Who Served, World War II – Present

Cross-posted from the Veterans Affairs blog VAntage Point. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden welcomed military spouses, mothers and grandmothers to the White House for a Mother's Day tea this week. Watch the video.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is celebrating the women who have served our country and taken on one of the greatest roles in life: motherhood. In doing so, we reached out to mom Veterans and their family members for photographs and stories. We’ve received photographs and stories that stretch beyond the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan back to World War II. Each mother has a unique story, united by their service. Below are photos and excerpts of stories of mothers who served in World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. Happy Mother’s Day!


Submitted by Thallassa M. Gunelius, MSgt, USAF (Ret), son
Judith Gunelius (above), enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1958. After a break in service to have four children, she became the first woman in the Minnesota Air National Guard in 1972 and the first enlisted female aeromedevac technician to fly on C-130s. . .I’m grateful for my mother and all the other courageous ladies who paved the way for those of us who followed in their footsteps. The example that both of my parents set during their enlistments resulted in all four of their kids carrying on the tradition in the US Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. Collectively, our family has proudly served this great country for a total of 68 years!

Submitted by Joyce C. Leneave, U.S. Army Veteran, 1989-1993, mother
While serving in the Army at the European Command Center, Patch Barracks, Germany, I became pregnant with my eldest child. I was a single mother and my female Commander was supportive of my decision to stay in the military. On May 26, 1992, my daughter Vanessa was born at Bad Constadtt Hospital. Now she is a freshman at NKU, studying music education. She hopes to be a high school music teacher. I am taking courses that were awarded to me by Military to Medicine. I am proud of my service to my Nation and it is all the more precious to me to know that my daughter shares part of that with me.

Submitted by Margo Trueman, sister-in-law
I would like to honor my sister-in-law, AMS3 (AW) Robyn Roche-Paull (left), who served in the U.S. Navy from 1991 to 1997. Robyn served on the USS Eisenhower when it first deployed with women on board. She is also one of the first women in the U.S. Navy to be qualified to launch aircraft. During her time in the Navy, she became a mother for the first time. In fact, she was on duty the night she went into labor so she literally worked right up to the day she gave birth. She continued her service for over a year following her son’s birth before receiving an honorable discharge in 1997. Robyn’s experience as a mother in the Navy prompted her to do what she could to help other mothers overcome these hurdles with more information and support than she had. She graduated from University with a degree in Maternal Child Health and went on to become a Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

Submitted by Jeffrey Wollberg, son
This is a picture of my mom (left) taken on her 90th birthday. She is now 92. She was a WAVE during World War II and did secretarial work for the Navy. After her Navy enlistment was ended she continued in secretarial work and personnel management until she retired from her position as the president’s secretary from US Checkbook. Her services and my father’s service must have had some influence on our family. . .My two sons shown in this picture are in the Air Force, one in the Air Guard and the other active duty. They both graduated the same day from basic. I served in the Army Reserve 1986–1992 and Active Reserve 1992–2002.

Submitted by Kathryn Peacock, daughter-in-law
I’m writing to honor my mother-in-law. She has supported her son even when everyone else doubted his decisions to join the Army after college. Her family business could have made her encourage her son to travel a different route, but she knew he had to fulfill his goals to lead soldiers in battle. This February he was injured in battle. She was there at his side a day after his surgery at Walter Reed. She didn’t care he was heavily sedated, because she was able to share the moment with her son. As the wife of her son, she is an honest whole-hearted role model.

Submitted by SMSgt Katrina McIntosh, daughter
My Mom is Karin Winward, a retired SMSgt (Air Force E-8). She served 23 years and retired in 1992. She is my hero. We moved a lot as I grew up, I went to five elementary schools, two junior high schools, and two high schools, and enjoyed every minute of it. I was able to see new places and make new friends. She was the first WAF (Women in the Air Force) stationed at Tainan Air Base in Taiwan making great strides for women in the Air Force. My Mom is also my friend and my mentor. She is the reason I have served 23 years in the Air Force and am still serving. I believe that time apart just made us closer, made us appreciate each other more. She has been there every step of my career, even if we were across the world we were together in our hearts.

View the slideshow of over two dozen more photos of mothers who’ve served in uniform.

Kate Hoit is the New Media Specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is also an Iraq War Veteran.

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