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
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)
Since 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.
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:
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.
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 Air Force Parents
Parents of the Enlisted
For Coast Guard Parents (nice job CG!!) For National Guard Families
For Coast Guard Parents (nice job CG!!)
For National Guard Families