I am really excited that we were able to complete our very first packaging yesterday evening with our Blue Star Mom Chapter. We had 26 boxes to send out to the Troops but it’s a start. We also had 3 LARGE boxes to send over to Landstuhl for our Wounded Warrior Project. That, to me, was so wonderfully fulfilling.
Not everyone could be there, but helping us last night were most of our Moms, my other two sons plus two friends of one of them. Yes, the friends were there initially for their own reasons (community service hours) but once we finished they had a new perspective. They have asked to be included in future events like our care package boxing night because they had fun.. Before we began, I explained to them what we were doing, who it was for and why we were doing it. One of them wasn’t sure about the wounded warrior items, what wounded, what did that mean, he asked. We spoke about our soldiers who come off the battlefield, what happens, where they go. As he began to comprehend and digest what he was being told, about what we were doing and why, he seemed to work a little harder and faster. They hauled in supplies, donated by a local Girl Scout Troop and others. They helped with the heavy stuff that we ladies couldn’t lift and once we were done, they loaded the boxes for mailing into the van for us too. They even double checked the boxes before sealing them to ensure that everything fit right. They were smiling the whole time! They drove away happy, uplifted and I’m sure that although they couldn’t really put any name to it, they just felt better.
What did it cost them? Yes, they did benefit from their time but so did we, so will others. If the gift of time is all they can afford to give, then I’ll take it! Yes, we could use more items donated to send over to the Troops. We could use assistance with our Veterans, with the families of the deployed whose homes are in disrepair, with the children of the deployed in coping with having a parent gone. Each service organization reaching out to the community through any means possible can ensure that all who have never even thought of giving the gift of time is allowed a chance to do so. There are so many people who think they are alone, who need that extra encouraging smile, that nod to help them on their path.
What can we do to help? I love those words! By reaching out to the community we touch lives in a positive way, you never know how much of a difference you will make in the life of someone else. So, yes, the homeboys will be back, and if you, your family or friends want to help out, all you have to do is let me know (if you live in my area).
As I tell the recruiters, send me their Mothers and we will take care of them, and in doing so, we take care of the family. If you don’t volunteer already, I am asking you to be a part of something bigger then yourself, be an active part of our Military Family and reach outside of your comfort zone. Veterans can volunteer in classrooms, be a volunteer reader at the library, help out with Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts or at the YMCA, check out your local police department and volunteer there to help the community. The community can volunteer at a Veteran Hospital, or collect items to send to the Troops, have a yard sale and donate the proceeds, donate blood, whatever! You will be happy you did.
Chief emailed me today and alerted me to this group. Now he loves music – plays guitar, is trying to learn the bagpipes (oh, the dog LOVED that one… howled in a descant!) and the mandolin, plays harmonica… and when he saw Operation Happy Note, he was intrigued. Then he saw – they are from Fergus Falls Minnesota, so there’s a “home state” connection for us.
The Baker’s, from Fergus Falls MN sent their son and a friend of his guitars when they were deployed in 2005. Since then, they set up Operation Happy Note, and have been sending all kinds of instruments, guitars, violins, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas to deployed troops. They have help from manufacturers, but the shipping costs – are up to OHN and can be quite high (as you and I know from sending our care packages!) It’s hard to know that there are instruments waiting to be sent to someone who could use that escape that can be found in making music, because of postage!
If you are feeling in the giving mood – think about Operation Happy Note
Reaching Out to the Community
One of the services that we promise to provide as a member of the BSM is to educate, another is to support. While we as parents have always done this for our own children, not all of us have done this for others. It’s just not an easy thing to do, to reach out when you, yourself are hurting inside. I find that this is my own way of healing and dealing. Healing the hurt of not having my “baby” with me because he is stationed elsewhere and dealing with the worry, hurt and anger that I feel some times about his being in harms way. Many times we don’t want to give voice to what we are trying to deal with, and it’s damned hard to recognize that we cannot protect those who we have carried for 9 months. That’s why, when I received an update from militaryHOMEFRONT regarding April being the Month of the Military Child, that I decided to request the DVD’s from them (free) to share with my granddaughters.
I wanted them because my oldest granddaughter had asked her Dad just before he left for his first sandbox tour, “what if you die? What will I do?” And for the other two, one who began bedwetting because her sister started Kindergarten and having one more person “leaving” and being separated from her was more then she could take at the time. I wanted to help them be able to see that they are not alone, that other childrens daddies and mommies were not at home too.
Little did I know that so much more would come of this.
After emailing for the free DVD’s, I received an email from, and later had the pleasure of meeting Col. Patrin, MIL USA MEDCOM CMONT one of those who has worked so hard with Maj Lemmon (and many others) to create these free DVDs for the children (and families) of the deployed and who is trying to get the word out about them. My mind began going into overdrive when I started to think of how useful and far reaching this could go in my own hometown. Beginning with just 3 little girls, reaching out to local schools, counselors, mentors, FAMILIES!!! The list is practically endless as to who should & needs to view these DVDs. We are all affected by what is happening, as adults we are able to express how we feel, sometimes effectively and other times, well, not as effectively as we would like. But, imagine being 4 years old and not being able to see Dad or Mom and not really knowing why they are gone or where they are at. Or being 12 years old and having to take on chores that used to be taken care of by one of your parents, as one young man states “having to man up”. Or being a young child or teen and hearing your Mom cry when she thinks you don’t hear her and not being able to help console her, feeling helpless and defenseless. That is what our children and grandchildren are going through, we are not the only ones.
Our BSM’s previewed the teen/young adult video last night. What struck me was that all of the children interviewed in the teen/young adult DVD expressed the same feelings that we, as parents, have given voice to when we reach out to each other. Yet, they hold it in, feeling that they are alone in one way or another while their parent is deployed. I don’t know why I was surprised. Believe me, as a former Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, School Bus Driver and youth camp director, not to mention a MOM, I know when a child is not happy. Finding out what they are unhappy about however, is not always easy. Getting to know them can be a struggle if they don’t want to let you in. But, it is up to all of us, as members of the military community to seek out these families with children of the deployed to help them through this difficult time in their lives. To connect with each other as well so that we stay healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally.
What even surprised me more was how it affected our Moms who were previewing the video. An awareness dawned on all of us, that maybe, we could do something to help our military families with children. It opened up discussions about how we feel as well. My proposal to them was to ask them if they would be willing to work with me in educating our community, carrying forth our mission to help not only our Troops but those courageous ones left behind. So that is what we will be doing during the Month of the Military Child and beyond, we will be helping in any way we can, to educate the community through the use of these DVDs and their handouts and promoting other programs that are available like the Operation Purple Camp.
I believe in the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” If we don’t help to ease the minds of our Soldiers while they are away from home by helping to care for the most precious people in their lives, who will?
Morale … you know your soldier … you can detect his/her mood in a message or the tone of their voice and you know that they’re down … the traveling px is there, but finance didn’t come out first … everyone is out of money and out of smokes (now I don’t want him to smoke, but understand that it’s the stress relief that he needs). The mail gets messed up – packages that are addressed correctly are returned to their senders, mail sent home takes months to get there. We want their heads to be in their job. We want them to be ON – really ON – and sharp! We send letters, funny cards, pictures, and packages. We send crazy stuff like Christmas trees and dart boards, and camping cooking forks with supplies to make s’mores … all to boost morale … for our soldier and all the guys in his tent.
As a parent you sometimes feel a bit out there because you’re not on base or near the FRG. I’m so thankful for a fantastic company FRG leader who keeps us in the loop. I, also, joined a Military Family Support Group near my home, almost twelve months before my son deployed. My motivation was to learn how to support my son’s wife before, during and after deployment – and of course to support my son. I had no idea how valuable this group would be to me. Our facilitator is in close contact with chaplains of several groups of deployed soldiers – all branches of the military. Our group is composed of parents, spouses, children, grandparents, friends, and troops who have returned home from deployment. When our facilitator gets word that there are troops who are not getting mail or packages from home, we ‘adopt’ them and send cards and boxes that say “we appreciate you and the sacrifices you are making for all of us.” Our efforts are to keep morale up and to let those troops know that what they are doing is important and appreciated by people back home.
I joined USO to help troops and their families as they travel and I’m very proud of my local USO because they’re committed to keeping it open 24/7. The Maine Troop Greeters were so amazing to our troops as they were going over and I just wanted to ‘pay it forward’. These things help MY morale and if I keep my morale strong, then I am better able to work on keeping my soldier’s morale up.
It’s scarey to hear our soldiers are down – no, they don’t say so – they NEVER would, but you hear it between the lines in the ‘tone’ of their message – or their voice if you can get a phone call. NONE of the things that get him down are within my control… as much as I would like to … I cannot correct the mail problems – or – ‘suggest’ that finance might make trips out to the FOB more often – at least before the traveling px comes. I’m a LOYAL Army Mom! But I’ve been a Mama Bear longer than I’ve been an Army Mom. Our deployed sons and daughters need to find home stable and strong when they communicate with us. They need us ALL to work together … it’s about morale … it’s about fighting the fight, they fight over there, we fight over here … it’s about keeping them focused on their jobs and staying focused on ours … and it’s about bringing them all back home – safe and strong!
Signing off – One Army Mama Bear