Let's set aside the apple pie for a moment, and think of mothers as we do soldiers. Sure, on Mother's Day we'll celebrate the soft imagery of mothers as our first comforters and teachers.

But beneath that hearts-and-flowers veneer, a devoted mother has a much harder dimension. In some ways, her outlook resembles that of an American soldier. She works unsung in the trenches, protecting, defending, sacrificing and building. She never really knows what end is in store for her or her charges.

In a sense, motherhood is like the Marine Corps: it's tough and thankless, and it's forever. The rest of us enjoy the benefits of the fighting done by both mother and Marine, usually in blissful ignorance of what they actually go through.

And as long as apple pie is off the table, let's think about mothers as prophets, too. We tend not to acknowledge their wisdom, conveyed as "advice." We know it as nagging. They, of course, know it as prophecy.

Mothers are often a brood of Cassandras, warning the train to stop as they helplessly watch the slow motion wreck.

Alas, like the proverbial prophet in his own country, an opining mother is not welcome in her own household.

But we kids do have a way of trying to compensate for our battle-weary moms. Americans spent over $14.5 billion in Mother's Day sales last year, on flowers, jewelry, cards and gifts. Cynics will claim that this is simply our "Hallmark" response to marketing campaigns that elicit guilt.

True, up to a point. However, our urge to celebrate the women who nurture us cuts a lot deeper than that. We know the trinkets we give are mere tokens of gratitude for her gifts of life, protection and nurturing.

We also know this is not a fact of life for all children. Some mothers are abusive or absent or neglectful. But it's precisely when a mother's love goes missing that the truth of her value is most validated.

All people of good will acknowledge the mother-child bond as inherently good. Consider that the Chinese character for the word "good" binds together the pictograms of the words "woman" and "child."

And the image of a Madonna-with-child is not only a core icon in Christianity. It remains an omnipresent image in everyday life. It's especially poignant when accompanied by conditions of famine and war, as photojournalism attests. The mother -- first source of best food and comfort -- is the primary line of defense for any child.

Decent people react to the severing of the mother-child bond -- through war, slavery, infanticide or human trafficking -- with a blend of anger, disgust and grief. Ironically, gender theorists who push to "redefine" the institutions of marriage and family serve to erode recognition of that bond.

A prime indicator is the creep of laws and statutes in Western nations that seem poised to expunge from birth certificates the very word "mother." As nations legalize same-sex marriage, neutered terms such as "Parent A" and "Parent B" (and even "C") are predictably replacing mother and father on government documents.

Even today, applicants for U.S. passports no longer fill in spaces marked "mother" and "father," but two spaces with identical designations reading "Mother/Father/Parent."

But one way or another, Americans will persist in acknowledging the importance of mothers. And mothers will fight on, no matter how meddlesome social engineers become. While those forces may have undermined fatherhood for the moment, an assault on motherhood is probably a bridge too far.

Onward, Mother Soldier. Ooh-rah.

Examiner contributor Stella Morabito writes on society, culture and education.