The forgotten 20th Century WWI & WWII Spouses, Mothers, and Loved Ones…”WWI vet’s widow, 103, gets VA benefits.” She served too!

by | Jul 6, 2013

The Military Spouse…forgotten heroes…

Florence Ellenberger has moved from Sun Towers at Sun City Center to Sun Terrace, a skilled nursing facility at the same complex. The move was possible because she was able to tap the VA benefits of her late husband, a WWI vet.

The forgotten military spouses, mothers, and loved ones of  20th Century World Wars…  Quote from this site…

“Forreste Ellenberger was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during WWI and after the war became a prominent banker in upstate New York. By the 1970s, his first wife had died and he became enamored by a spitfire of a woman who volunteered with organizations such as the Columbia Memorial Hospital, Daughters of the American Revolution and the Women’s Auxiliary of the Mellenville Volunteer Fire Co.”

Few know about benefits for aging veterans and survivors… Quote from this website..

“It’s probably one of the lesser-known benefits,” said Randal Noller, a Veterans Affairs spokesman in Washington. Of the 1.7 million World War II veterans alive as of 2011, who were in need of caregiving assistance and thus eligible, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses were granted the A&A benefit that year, according to Mr. Noller.”


When visiting my mother, Marcella, who is turning 95 this year, I think about all the aging residents in her home based in Reno.  I wonder about how they all made a difference in their lives.  Many of these aging ladies in particular are military widows, mothers, and loved ones who served America too…  I worry too that they are often forgotten.  It is distressing at times visiting with aging loved ones, especially if they are sick or unable to communicate.  The care givers do their very best from my experience.  In my mother’s case, her care giver and dear friend Brenda is technology savvy, so we kids from a distance can see and talk to her with Skype.  Each Sunday Brenda sends me a message letting me know when mother is ready for our visit over Skype.  Mom doesn’t say much because she has had many of those small strokes and a few other setbacks.  But I can get her to laugh, and sometimes make faces.

Like thousands of other aging spouses, widows, and loved ones everywhere, my mother seems to do better with the attention.  She is able to experience the benefits of all the new technology that has become common place these days, especially Skype.  You see, when Mom was waiting for Dad for all of WWII while he was deployed in the Pacific War, including Pearl Harbor, she rarely heard whether he was safe or not.  She no doubt spent sleepless nights thinking about whether Dad would ever return home.  When Dad finally came home in June of 1945 he brought the war home with him.  He also had to play catch-up and bond with his first born son, Jerry, who was 4 years old when first getting to know his father following WWII.  Jerry was born 3 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

As we boomers age, life experiences become better connected with ourselves and others we care about.  I was born on this day July 6, 1946, just a tad over a year after Dad returned home from WWII in June of 1945.  So many of us born at that time were facing some big challenges, living with a parent trying to readjust to a more peaceful existence after years of seeing the worst of our human condition.   I really don’t have very many fond memories of my early childhood or teen years.  It was my preference for many years just to forget about all of it and build a new life.  I began to question in my 50’s what was going on, and started to discover that denial and emotional numbness  does not help a person heal from traumatic experiences in life.  The persistent pain and knot in my stomach never disappeared.  The lingering pain seemed to be an albatross sending subtle messages to my brain telling me to do something different.  The anger never left me until revisiting my childhood and life as a whole while researching and writing my book two years ago.

It was really my wife, Judy, who led the way and helped me with my journey of healing over 30 years ago.  She is with me now on this day to help me again to celebrate my birthday with joy and happiness.  She is a gift and blessing each and every day of the year.

It is in this spirit that we should honor the spouses, mothers, and loved ones of veterans of all wars and others who suffer from traumatic events in life.  We men or women who carry the emotional baggage of traumatic experiences in life, have a much better chance of finding the peace of mind we all deserve in close relationships with others and human connectedness.  Never give up reaching out to others… 

When you think of your own parents as they age, try to know them better, and honor them for the difference they made in your life and the life of others…  Parents never achieve perfection by a long shot, but they do love their children and care deeply.  It is often that we observe emotional numbness from a person who experienced traumatic events, but remember it is a symptom of defense that allows a person to cope and live with horrific events in life, like war.  Sometimes emotional numbness closes off the heart and mind to all things joyful and loving.  Be patient and loving back even though it appears to be one-way.  You may not know it, but you are making a big difference in giving peace of mind to anyone suffering from severe trauma or moral injury.

This is a good day in my life!  Full of blessings, love, and peace of mind…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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