They didn’t have Facebook.

October 22, 2009 · Filed Under Blue Star Moms, Deployment, Proud Mom 3 · 1 Comment 

I was just thinking the other day about how lucky we are as parents of deployed children to be able to communicate with them during deployment. Do not get me wrong. It is still very hard to sleep with the phone, check email countless times and yes, I am sure we all know what it is like to “stalk” the mailman.

I recently spoke with some Patriot Guard friends who lived through the Vietnam area. They reminded me to be thankful for communication we enjoy these days as they like their counterparts in WWII and other previous wars had rely on a written letter. Skype was far from being a possibility in those days.

Now, we also have the overwhelming influence of Social Networking sights. I can hardly believe I can logon to FaceBook everyday and see pictures posting from the ship. Not to mention the Capt of the ship occasionally will post updates. I search Twitter everyday for info and I have been able to connect with other families with loved ones on this ship. Why, I almost set my 80-year-mother on FaceBook. She declined and just decided to follow the Shutterfly site I have set up where I add all the news stories and pictures I find concerning the deployment.

I saw a tweet from a pregnant wife appealing to the ship to contact her deployed sailor because she is ready to give birth and her husband had not called since the ship sailed. Unbelievably, the ship replied and told her to email privately and the contact person on the ship said he would see what he could do. That did not happen in previous conflicts.

The point is that even though it is still very hard for us to sit and wait, nearly shower with the phone, exhaust every search phrase on Google and make the mailman want to change routes, we are very lucky and blessed. We are all in the boat together as were all the parents, wives, children…before us.

Care Packages – From Blue Star Mamaw

blue starSince beginning a new chapter of Blue Star Moms in February of this year, I have learned a lot.  We have, as a group, done quite a bit, accomplished more in the past six months then some people do in a year.  The support from local communities has been steadily advancing and I am amazed at the generousity of so many.

We recently had our second shipment of Care Packages go out.  This time, we were able to send 55 packages to the deployed.  The first time is was 22 to deployed Troops and 2 large boxes to the hospital overseas for our wounded.  It may not seem like much in comparison to other groups who have been around longer but we are slowly spreading the word that there are needs that we, here at home, take for granted, that are not available to our Troops who are away from home.

Many are aware of our Troops being “down the road” but are unaware that many are still in the “sandbox” and that amazes me.  I even had one woman ask me why we would send care packages to the sandbox when none of our Troops were there?  Hello….Does no one watch the news or read the newspapers any more?  I explained our mission and our goal so that she finally understood and she has now volunteered her services and that of several friends to help with our next packaging.  YEA!!

So let me share what happened with our last packaging.  One of our Moms has a son serving down the road and he had emailed her with an emergency listing of his Unit’s needs. Just 9 young men, not a tall order for us at all.  Basically they were sharing deoderant, as many had run out, had several who never receive anything from home and their room was smelling a bit gamey (I won’t write what he said it actually smelled like-it was very much a guy comment though).  smile….

We ended up putting out a call to those who are affiliated with us and the items began pouring in!  Soap, toothpaste, Febreze, snacks, shampoo, body wash, M&M’s (a special request), amongst other items.  We had calendars donated from a local Hooter’s, DVDs, CDs, books, games and postcards written by many attendees of different events that we collect as we attend.  Those items were sent over the day after the packaging but not soon enough.  Two of the men in his Unit were unable to enjoy these small bits of home as they did not make it back from a firefight.  Another, the M&M requestor, grabbed the extra large bag of M&M’s, went to a corner, sat back and ate the entire bag by himself.  He couldn’t get enough of home and the memories this small candy snack brought to him.  This made me laugh and cry at the same time.  He is only 18 years old and does not receive much, this was the least we could do.  He is younger then my youngest son….

The smiles we were able to help create will be a part of us forever, the tears we shed when we receive the pictures back of them smiling with their packages, for the looks on their faces, fall silently and they will never see them rolling down our cheeks.

I sent my son homemade chocolate chip cookies and promised some to another soldier serving in the sandbox.  I sent her those as a special treat, from me, Mamaw.  I also sent over Cracker Jacks and sunscreen, she looked a little red in her recent photos.  When she sent me the pictures of her and her unit with the cookies and the other items they received (we also sent them some care packages), I laughed out loud.  Mind you, I was alone, at home, reading emails and posting updates and when I saw those pictures, I was in awe of how much this meant to our soldiers.  It only took me a small portion of my day to bake those cookies and a little bit of my lunch hour to send them over to her.  Since they were from me to her there was a bit of extra caring put into those cookies and a little bit more of the white chocolate chips too!    The pictures of one young female soldier reading a card that was in a care package made me cry.  The look on her face, the writing on the card, is visible and moving.  The stillness of her composure impacted me in such a way that I have to hold back the tears thinking of her.  It is a childs writing, with little flowers drawn on the border, completed with care, respect in the way that only a child can do, with innocence and love, completed without knowing who would be the recipient.

Another portion of our packages were given to a Chaplain as one young man that we had mailed them to did not really understand that he was to hand them out to those who would need them the most.  His buddies were laughing when he kept coming back from the post office on base with more and more packages.  He thought about it and came up with the idea to take them to the Chaplain so that those young men and women who were in dire need of a little bit of home, in need of an outpouring of love, and needing comfort, in need of knowing that they are indeed supported and thought of, would receive it.

These pictures and notes are not required for us to know that the packages are appreciated, we know, as Moms, that they are.  Just like the items sent for the wounded, we knew what they needed because we asked for a list.  These items are stored by the Chaplain at the hospital and for those who are in need (and ALL there are in need) can go to the locker area and “go shopping” for their sweats, t-shirts, shoes, flip flops, phone cards, what ever it is that is sent over and kept there for them.  We send only new items for them (in all of our packages), they don’t deserve used, they have volunteered to put their lives on the line and we want them to know that we appreciate them.

It’s not about how much you spend or are able to spend, one trip to the Dollar Store can benefit several soldiers.  It’s not about receiving kudos for what is sent, it’s knowing in your heart that you helped send a little bit of home and comfort to a Soldier who misses his family as much as they miss him.  It’s what you do to show you are thinking of them and that you care.

Mamaw

Soldiers Have Parents??

We are a military family. All three of our sons enlisted while they were single (unmarried) and many of “Our Guys” (soldiers we consider family) have also been single. As a result, I have from time to time done some complaining about how about half of Army soldiers are UNmarried but that “family” resources and information were principally for spouses — parents left out of the loop. (I actually asked what was being done for the “other half” of the Army while participating in a blogger’s roundtable that included the Secretary of the Army…)
While recently cruising the Army Home Page on Military OneSource, I was pleased to see the following prominently featured on the page:

New to the Army? Help Keep Your Parents in the Loop

If you’ve just joined the Army and your parents aren’t familiar with military life, keep them in the loop with these materials:

I don’t know how long that’s been up there and I’m sure the Army didn’t need any prodding from parents… however it got there and however long it’s been there, THANK YOU!!

The information under “When Your Son or Daughter…” is pretty basic (it’s a starting point), but you should also seek out additional information from sites specific to the military installation/branch of service where your child is undergoing training.

The “Resources…” page provides links to official and unofficial web sites that you might, as a parent, find useful, but also be sure to check out blogs like ParentsZone.org and other military blogs (“Milblogs” — you can find blogs by branch of service as well as those blogs by parents at www.milblogging.com).

As the parent of a soldier, you should become familiar with some of the other resource information contained on other Army and Dept. of Defense sites for future reference… such as the Army Well-Being site and the Military Homefront page.

I’d really like the Army and the other services to produce content specific to parents (or non-spousal family) with the idea that these people are usually remote (away) from their soldier’s military installation and typically have no idea how to contact the installation or chain of command (or even who that might be) in an emergency… or what resources are available to their soldier/sailor/marine/airman/coastie or to the family member (be that a parent, aunt, uncle, sister or brother…) when faced with serious issues involving their child (for example, post-deployment issues). (And, yes, I know that there are those who actually joined the military to AVOID their parents… but every soldier has a next-of-kin somewhere — that are not “in the loop” but should be!)

I did also find some parent-related information for the other services (some official, some unofficial):

for Parents of Marines
A Parent’s Guide to the Marine Corps
USMC – Recruit Training
Marine Parents.com

For Navy Parents
Navy for Moms
Navy Dads

For Air Force Parents
Parents of the Enlisted

AF — you could do better… information or links for parents could easily be added to AFCrossroads.

For Coast Guard Parents (nice job CG!!)

For National Guard Families

General informational links for all branches, Guard and Reserves at Today’s Military and Military.com

How can she help Military Parents?

Parents – I received an email from an employee at a Best Buy store.. and I was so impressed with her desire to help the parents of serving military. What would YOU want to tell her? Can we get her the information she needs? can we help her, help more like us? I’ve already sent her the Blue Star Mothers site – but there has to be more we can do!

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My name is Sabrina and I’ve been put in charge of the military initiatives here at my Best Buy Store . I saw your site and was very curious. You see in my store, and I’m sure many others, we have quite a few employees who are either returning from deployments, returning from TBS/OCS, or are looking into joining the military. Although our store is situated near a military recruiting office, I don’t believe that there’s enough information for the parents, siblings, or children of those that are in, or seeking to go into, the military.

As we also have a volunteer mentoring program here at our store, and as part of our corporate community relations initiatives; I was wondering what assistance our military employees could be to the parents of someone looking to join the military and to the children of military parents.

With the Military recruiting offices being so close to so many locations of BBY stores, quite a few of the younger employees who have considered a military career go over and ask for information or talk with recruiters. While this helps them, I don’t believe it provides enough information to their parents and/or siblings who need to understand what their children/siblings/family member will be going into. So many of what I overhear from the ones with concerns are questions like: Is my child going off to die? How will TBS/OCS change who they are? Will I know my child when they come home from training/deployment?

I’d like to be able to offer the concerned parents/family members some kind of resource or forum that they can go to attain the answers they need. Someplace where they can talk to other parents with the same concerns, and others who have been through this and know what is the best way they can be concerned while still being supportive of their loved ones decision. Most parents worry about their children going off to college, but when that child wants to discuss joining the military it becomes a whole new ball game. I’d like to be able to offer what support and resources I can.

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