When I was doing some historical research on my husband’s ancestors I was trying to find Elizabeth Coffey’s real
Grandma. What I could piece together was that Alois Staelens crossed the ocean with his wife or married her
shortly after they arrived. There was only one clue as to what happened next. There was a short piece in the
paper that mentioned the fact that Alois Staelens was left with a month old infant and how sad it was for him.
There was no mention of his wife, who she was or where she was buried – nothing. Here was a young woman,
unnamed and uncelebrated, who gave her life so that Alois Staelen’s legacy lives on.
Between 2012 and 2022 about 8,000 women died giving birth to this country. Another 500,000 suffer the effects
of childbirth that will last a lifetime. Yet no one recognizes their sacrifices and contributions to our country. After
all, giving birth is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do and yet they bravely do it. Perhaps we
should call them veterans too.
We are right to remember those who fought and died to defend our country. We spend huge amounts of money to
do just that. We established the American Legion, the AmVets, the Eagles, the VFW. We built a huge national
Veterans Administration to care for those with the after effects of war. We honor and protect the Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier. We give them discounts and donuts. We provide educational opportunities for GIs. We thank
them for their service. We applaud them all the time. There is no doubt about our feelings for our veterans.
But next time you are asked to remember those who fought to defend this great country, leave some room for
those women who died giving birth to it. It’s the least we can do.
Thank you Great Grandma Staelens, whoever you were, for your sacrifice. You deserve to be remembered and
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