He Had Pity on Their Mothers: A Beautiful True Story


There's a lot of political circuses to write about, but today I feel inspired to recount a very beautiful true story; a story I'd never heard before. It's a story about the Falklands War in 1982, where the British took on the Argentine military and won.

Then-Captain Geoffrey Cardozo of the British Dragoon Guards had fought in that war. He recalls, "When I left for the Falklands I got the most incredible hug from my mother. The sort of long, tight hug I hadn’t really had from her since I was five or six years old. Nothing was said but I guess she knew full well there was a chance I might not come back. I didn’t think a lot of it at the time but it came back to me when I saw that first body on Longdon. He had a mother, too."

What he is referring to is after the conflict, Cardozo and others were responsible for the clearing of the war zone. Cardozo was receiving reports about the dead bodies of Argentine soldiers. The Argentine government was refusing their repatriation, saying that the Falklands were Argentinian territory, and thus there was no need for repatriation. What to do with the bodies of the enemy dead, then? Cardozo decided to have mercy on their mothers, and to create a military graveyard on the Falklands and carefully bury each young man and try to identify him. If there were no identifying information, they took down as much detail as they could, and kept any mementoes the young man had been carrying.

Cardozo remarks about the moment the idea came to him as he retrieved the first corpse: "The cold had preserved him so he seemed almost alive. And so young. I just thought of my mother. And his." They buried each man with a white cross; 114 (later, with additions, 122) of the graves were those of unknown young men--about half of the total.

In 2008, Cardozo was serendipitously asked to translate for an Argentine veteran: "Julio Aro had been a 19-year-old conscript during the conflict and a few weeks earlier had visited the Darwin cemetery in a bid to ‘find the Julio I had left behind’. He was shocked to find 122 crosses there (eight more had been interred since 1983) bearing no name. He returned to Argentina and asked his mother how she would have felt if he were one of those unknown soldiers. She replied: ‘I would have searched for you until the end of my life.’ Aro determined to discover as many identities as he could. DNA testing was by now well-established, so if he could trace close relatives and persuade them to give DNA samples, the problem of identification could be solved.

Cardozo and Aro collaborated to get the permissions needed to exhume the unknown bodies and perform a DNA analysis in 2016. Then they began reaching out to families: "Most were suspicious to begin with: ‘People manage pain in different ways. These mothers felt they had been forgotten and that nobody cared much about them or their sons. So they wondered why we cared after all this time. ‘Some acted as if their sons were still alive, keeping their rooms the same, their bicycles, talking to them, even setting places for them at Christmas dinner. Maybe they didn’t really want proof he was dead. Others felt they had cried so much and for so long, they couldn’t cry any more.’ But eventually most came around."

By 2019, many identifications had been made: "89 relatives of the missing walked together along the pebbled path to Darwin cemetery to finally put names on their lost sons’ graves. Some stood weeping in silent remembrance, others spoke to their sons, brought gifts, told them all the family news they’d missed. ‘They arrived with such a leaden step but they left with their heads held high and perhaps with a new sense of pride,’ Cardozo says. ‘They didn’t want their children to die of course, but at least they now know how and where and that they died for their cause.’"

Only 7 young men remain unidentified. Cardozo expresses that, "To see a mother put flowers on her son’s grave for the first time 36 years after losing him is an incredible moment. On the way out of the cemetery, one mum turned towards me with tears in her eyes, and I reached out to dry them, which she let me do. It was an incredible moment."

Cardozo and Aro have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope they win it. They had the same heart that mothers do: each one fo those young man was a precious child to earthly and Heavenly Parents. God bless them for their efforts.