Over at PBS.org I have written a post about the meaningful bonds that are forged during military service… among soldiers… among wives… among parents…
Throughout the course of our lifetimes, we make and break bonds with people. Some bonds are formed in friendship: schoolmates, neighbors, fellow workers. I have close friends from each of those groups. I maintain, however, that the bonds forged in military service are perhaps the strongest of all bonds. Stronger than steel. Stronger than adversity. Stronger than time.We all know the story of veterans sittin’ around and one says, “No shit!! There I was…” followed by a story of improbability or hilarity, typically punctuated with profanity, irreverent phrases and sordid images. It will end with much backslapping and hearty handshakes. The circle might contain members of a single unit or a single war, or it might contain an assortment of veterans from many of this nation’s conflicts. But they are bonded and tied to each other by the commonality of their service. Some are bonded by the mettle and the blood of battle. You need look no further than the Illiad or the St. Crispen’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V for evidence of the emotional connection these men share.
[snip]Some of my closest friends today are people I didn’t know before my son deployed. We met via military blogs (including my own) and private online Internet forums established by parents of soldiers — one by a Third Infantry Division parent, another established by military moms for military moms. These were places to share information, to share worry, to celebrate good news and to commiserate when the news was bad. These were places that let us share this bond, hammered and shaped by our worry for our sons and daughters. These relationships are equal parts ethereal and practical; as much emotional as they are physical. It involves both the spiritual and the material worlds — prayers and novena candles as well as care packages and cookie recipes. It is an inclusive sisterhood for which we did not volunteer, but in which we are now forever members.
You can read it all at PBS/POV: Conversations on Coming Home
When I first began with the Blue Star Moms, I wasn’t sure about how we were going to get things going as far as packages for the Troops or our Wounded Warriors. Things have moved so fast in a positive direction that I know that being a part of this, even beginning this Chapter, is something I was supposed to do. I know that may sound silly to some, but I am a firm believer that if you are meant to do something in life then the Universe will allow you to succeed. If you truly want to accomplish anything, feel it in your heart, it will come your way, in one manner or another, you will get what you need. By giving you receive.
Mind you, I have felt helpless many times in my life; when my son was in the Intensive Care Unit at birth, I felt this way. It was up to him to begin to breathe on his own without a respirator, which he did after a few days and now, all these years later he serves his Country with pride. Many times throughout my life I have felt that I could not deal with certain things that have come my way but always, I have been able to come up with the courage to see things through. My palms may get sweaty but I “put on my big girl undies and deal with it.” So, when more Moms began to contact me to join with me on this endeavor, I found ways to get things together, some times overnight! From standing up and speaking to a group of strangers about what a Blue Star Mom actually is, to putting together new member packets for familys, it has been a lot of work. And I have enjoyed every part of it.
However, when it came to sending care packages to our Troops, I didn’t really know how we were going to accomplish this on our own. Where to begin, who to talk to, nothing. I was as new at this as a fresh recruit getting off the bus at bootcamp! We are all new to this still, we didn’t have a lot of contacts except each other and the income/donations were not there yet. The cash donations we have received we have stood many hours in the heat, cold, wind and on hard concrete for. It is the least we can do, in my estimation, just a little discomfort is well worth the outcome. We do this thinking of our soldiers in the heat and cold, far worse conditions then we put up with.
We have been blessed with over 7,000 packets of the instant coffee from Starbucks customers to send to our Troops. We have been able to send handwritten note cards in every single package that we have been able to send to date. These come from those who visit our table when we do things like enduring heat of 103+ degrees at the Annual Chili Cookoff and local dog show. We have had bake sales to raise funds to ship the boxes that we knew that we would eventually, somehow be able to fill. I knew that we were on the right track, I could just feel it in my heart. The angels were listening to be sure!
I received an email from Operation Homefront regarding school supplies for military children to sign up on the website they gave me and was able to list our chapter to receive donations from local Dollar Tree stores. I figured we would receive a little something that we could pass along to the children, even receiving 10 of something would be better off then where we were at the time, with a whole lot of nothing except what we, the moms, were purchasing to send on our own.
Lo and behold, when we received the first call to go and pick up those items, there were at least 15 boxes between just two of the locations chock full of school supplies! We ended up with enough to assist 111 children plus, of various ages and in different locations. We were overjoyed to be able to receive such a generous contribution from the local communities.
Once I saw those coming in, I figured I should get back in the non-profit mode that I used to be in when the boys were in Cub Scouts and see if I could convince another store to do something so I went to Borders Book Store. To my surprise, the assistant manager was a “Navy brat” and they decided then and there to do a book/school supply drive for us. We ended up with over $5,000 in new books, backpacks and other items for the military children to give to them along with their school supplies. What an awesome blessing!
Once the drive for the school supplies was over, we were still wondering how we were going to be able to support our Troops. My own paycheck can only be stretched so far even when I do shop at Wally World and the “D” store. Many of our moms were out of work due to slow downs at their places of employment, like many others and we were all stressing about our children being deployed yet again. What to do, what to do?!?
Then, to my surprise, I received another notification from a local D store. Was I the right person for them to call? They had some care package items that they had collected and wanted to give them to someone and they had my name so could I stop by and pick them up? Taking my pick up truck over the next day, I picked up an entire truck bed of boxes loaded with care package items like hand sanitizer, razors, foot powder, combs, snacks of all kinds, candy and more! I wanted to cry, I was so overwhelmed at the amount of items that I actually needed assistance to pick up the rest.
We sent out 55 boxes on our first campaign, that was over 4 months ago with donations from family and friends. Last night, our third packaging to date, we packaged 150 boxes and actually ran out of boxes to fill. We had donations from not only the D store customers, but also from members of the local Veterans Administration staff, local community members and business owners. People just pop in at our meetings and drop off items for us to send. The local Rotary Club is sending 100 more packages to our Troops with names we have been able to supply to them. A local dental office has bought back Halloween candy and given it to us, over 400 pounds came in last night along with notes written by children from a local school thanking our Troops. A grandma showed up with donations and her teenage grandson, gave me the donations and left him there to help us, she said to give her a call when we were done having him work! He was quite the worker too!
The Army recruiter called me tonight, a local Pastor called him, the church has taken up a collection of items and they wanted to know who to give it to so he told them he had someone who would take it all, he made me laugh when he said he knew just who to call.
I have felt helpless, not knowing how we were going to accomplish all that I had envisioned our chapter doing to support the troops and their families, but apparently there are plans from above to show me that there are many helping hands out there. I wanted to be able to send to more then one soldier, and my wish is coming true. I know that there are many who don’t know how to help so they give, one dollar at a time, to our Troops. By doing this they don’t realize just how much they are helping each of the moms in our chapter, and all of our family members. Their outpouring of love and support is going overseas, each box as full as we can get it. You don’t have to hold a sign in support of our Troops, just go to a local Dollar Tree store and tell them you want to give to the Operation Homefront collection they are hosting.
We will sort, count, bag, and box. We will label each box, fill out the customs forms, load our vehicles and drive to the post office. We will join together, no longer helpless by ourselves, but stronger together in completing these packagings for our Troops and Wounded. With a sense of love and friendship we send those supplies over one way or another and the funds to do so will come to us, one way or another to get this done. We have enough right now to send 100 of those 150 packages to the war zone, we still need more funding to get the rest over in time for Christmas and we still have 10 large boxes that need funding to go to our Wounded in Landstuhl. That of course is my next wish! And I believe, that one way or another, it will come true.
Proud Mother of an American Soldier
From BlueStar Mamaw and from the Director of New Media for PBS/NOW Magazine:
Hello Writers, Bloggers, and Citizens,
This weekend, the newsmagazine NOW on PBS will take a hard look at America’s new wounded warriors — why are their family caregivers overworked and under-supported?
I think your audience, colleagues, and members will be very interested. I’m pasting more information below. Know that the show will be available free and in full on our website starting immediately after broadcast at www.pbs.org/now
The Pentagon estimates that as many as one in five American soldiers are coming home from war zones with traumatic brain injuries, many of which require round-the-clock attention. But lost in the reports of these returning soldiers are the stories of family members who often sacrifice their entire livelihoods to care for them. On Friday, November 20 at 8:30 pm (check local listings at http://www.pbs.org/now/sched.html), NOW reveals how little has been done to help these family caregivers, and reports on proposals to provide critical support, though some say the ideas are just too expensive. At what point do the costs of war come at too high a price?
In addition to showing the program, our website will feature resources for family caregivers, a view of petitions seeking to create change, and a poll question launching Thursday evening:
Should family members be compensated for their care of wounded veterans?
Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
Director of New Media
NOW on PBS
Do you love to knit or crochet, and is your family completely outfitted with everything yarn related? Ar you looking for a way to indulge your love of all things yarn and needle craft – and give to those who can really really appreciate it? We found a great project for you! Hats, scarves and helmet liners for the Troops in Afghanistan.
Operation Gratitude has a great site, and does some superb work. Right now, there is a push to send hats, scarves and helmet liners to Afghanistan. It’s getting cold there already, Kabul tonight is in the 30s. In the mountains, it’s going to be colder, and it’s only October. The link here will give you patterns and information. There are some more patterns on Ravelry and other sites, I’ll put them below.
There are some rules you need to follow, and these are not suggestions, these are mandatory. First - NO acrylic or rayon or other artificial yarns. It must be 100% wool. Acrylic melts when it burns. When it gets wet, it gets cold and nasty. Wool, even when wet, keeps the body warmth in. I’m told that the Cascade 220 superwash is warm, soft and washable. There are other washable wools too. Second – muted colours. tans, browns, Army green, black, deep maroon if you must, dark blue if you want to send to airforce.
Other sites – patterns
USMC helmet liner
Scarves – any pattern you want, plainer the better and long enough to go around the neck once and get tucked in. A Gaiter is great too. You know how miserable it is when your neck gets cold!
Get the needles smoking – let’s get these guys something warm, something made with care and gratitude. The address to send to by December 5 is
Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, California 91406
If you want to, you can put in your name and email address, enclose a card, or anything else you think they’d like – the list is on the Operation Gratitude page, but those of us in the milparent community know what to send, right?
See you at the Yarn Store (if you live in the DC area, I’ll be there this Saturday)