My Child: Mothers of War


Film depicts mothers, sons in wartime
by Marianne Love

AZUSA – When Anthony Vidales turned 18, he signed up with the Marines despite his mother’s pleas.

That was three years ago. Now the Azusa resident has seven months of war in Iraq under his belt and is expected to make the military his career, said his mother, Marie Bonilla-Elzarka.

They are both part of a documentary film set to be screened in Azusa on Mother’s Day.

The 2003 San Dimas High School graduate arrived in North Carolina on Sunday for a 15-day break before returning to the war-torn country again.

Bonilla-Elzarka will be there when her son, a Marine lance corporal, a rifleman, a driver and member of the Combat Anti Armor Team, sets foot on U.S. soil…


The hardest thing she had to do was say goodbye to him at Camp Lejeune, N.C., when he started boot camp before shipping out to Iraq.

She said she tried to bribe him with a new truck, but he was determined to fight to keep her and his sister safe after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

“We keep our little boys in a safety box, protecting them. If they fall you are there to pick them up, if they bleed you’re there to bandage their wounds,” Bonilla-Elzarka said.

She wasn’t happy about his decision, but supports him all the way.

“We are a pro-military family, a Republican household and hold our country near and dear to our heart,” Bonilla-Elzarka said.

While Vidales was in boot camp, she said she found it very hard, but found solace in a Web site where she could meet other mothers going through the same thing.

“I’d go into his room, hug his pillow, lay in his bed, have his scent, hold his shirt,” she said, struggling to keep back the tears.

The Azusa mother, along with about 60 mothers nationwide, is part of a new documentary about sending sons off to war, welcoming them home or grieving their deaths. The idea to make the movie came to filmmaker Angeliki Giannakopoulos of Los Angeles after reading and hearing the stories of how war tears families apart.

“Mothers have sent their sons to war since the beginning of time. It resonated with me that if we hear a mother talk about a son, there’s a huge family behind him no matter what country he is from,” said Giannakopoulos, herself a stepmother and aunt.

The movie picks up on Bonilla-Elzarka about four months before she says goodbye to her second-born.

“Anthony also speaks about why he joins and says to his mother, `If I die bury me deep; deep in the ground I defended,’ then cuts to Camp Lejeune,” she said.

Giannakopoulos said she also filmed the night before Anthony leaves – him having his “last meal” with his mother and sister, Julie Ann Vidales-Passow, 23, of La Verne.

“Marie probably didn’t tell you this, but she made down pillows with the symbols of the Marines printed on them and sent them to Iraq to her son’s unit so they could have a good night’s sleep. She also made 300 to 400 T-shirts with the logo of the film on them and passes them out to other mothers,” Giannakopoulos said. “For Christmas she sent toys and presents to the guys in her son’s unit. She’s like the mother of all of them at some level.”

The film, “My Child, Mothers of War,” will be shown at no charge this Sundday, Mothers Day, at the Regency Foothill Cinema 10 in Azusa.

The film can be purchased at

Azusa Mayor Diane Chagnon helped to bring the movie to town. The manager made the theater available for free.

“Having it on Mother’s Day is a way to pay tribute to the mothers of our soldiers and veterans,” Chagnon said. “This is my way of being able to say `thank you’ to the families that have raised their children with a passion for serving and protecting our great nation.”

Giannakopoulos said the goal is for the public to buy the film, invite friends to watch it and then have a discussion. She said it’s expected to open in theaters soon.


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