JOHN Russell had not been born when his father enlisted to fight in World War I, but he lived with the wounds of that service.

His father would tell stories of dodging bullets in trenches of the Somme until he was hit with a face-full of shrapnel and pensioned out of the war.

"He was a runner, sending messages between the trenches," John said.

"He said at night you could see the bullets glow as they whizzed through the air."

"He was in a trench when a bomb fell on the corner. The man in front of him died, another had his leg badly wounded and dad was hit."

Later in life Norm Russell hit the bottle hard.

"He and his drinking mates would smash the house up," John said.

In hindsight John said his father showed signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

John was at the Toowoomba Mother's Memorial today for Remembrance Day.

Guest speak Helen Strange from the War Widows Guild of Australia said mothers and children were the hidden casualties of war.

"For many returned soldiers their wives became unpaid, full-time carers and counsellors looking after mental injuries," she said.

While today's families have greater access to mental health support and compensation, Mrs Strange said that was not the case for World War I and II families.

She said pensions amounted to a few dollars a week and were cut when their husbands died.

Despite the heartache John is proud of his father's sacrifice and the burden he carried.

"It was only because of people like my father who stood up that we are free," he said

Originally published as VIDEO: Families reflect on war’s hidden victims