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.
It can be so stressful being the mother of a Soldier as so many of us know. Whether he is in the sand or in paradise, it doesn’t matter. When he left a few weeks ago, he had to tell me “it’s okay mom, you can let go now” as he pulled away. What can I say? He’s my oldest, and I miss him. We moms worry no matter what and our kids think they are invincible. My son, Heaven love him! is in a place close to Paradise now, no longer fighting sand storms, dodging bullets or being out who knows where for weeks on end. Not standing guard over his buddies for 26 hours at a time while they fix the roadways. Instead palm trees and ocean breezes tempt him instead of the unknown slow driving vehicle. For this I am thankful, however, he is not at home and I still worry.
This morning I received a phone call, no one on the line but from his phone number. I could hear muffled sounds and the phone being moved back and forth. What worried me was that I kept saying his name over and over and could hear myself becoming stressed and screechy sounding. The buttons being pushed on his phone as if he wasn’t sure the connection was going through. Of course, I panicked. Worried all the way to work, heartburn beginning in the bottom of my stomach working it’s way up to my throat. My heart pounding, I drove the 7 miles to work calling my Mother on the way. Did he call her this morning? Yes!?! What happened, what did he say? Nothing….All she could hear were bells ringing in the background. What the hell? So when I arrived at work I immediately started searching for tsunami warnings, maybe there was an earthquake we hadn’t heard about. Checking CNN and any other news with the latest world updates. Why can’t I find out what I want to know? What to do! Who to call!?! Am I on the FRG list, did he remember to put me down for emergencies now that he is going to be single again?
I text messaged him…. no answer. I called long distance from work….still no answer. My brother called and left him a message. My niece called and left a message. Should I call his Dad? Three cups of coffee later, I had to take a Pepcid because I felt the heat building and the twisting knot that was now my stomach, not a good sign. Tried to calm myself down by working on the accounts payable. Yeah right, who am I kidding, that didn’t work out very well either. Why didn’t he call me back? What was happening!!
He finally called….He is fine. He was sent on a retreat. He was made to go because his wife, who can’t stand being separated and can’t cope without him around (read between the lines) is divorcing him. It takes a strong woman. They thought it would help him to cope a little better if he was able to go and relax for a few days. So when he called, he asked why I sounded so worried on the message I left him. Why was everyone calling him?
He told me where he was and what he was doing. He said the bells and the sound of the phone moving around, the muffled sounds all made sense to him after I explained to him what we heard on our end. The damned cell phone was in his pocket! He had been sitting down talking to someone when the phone called me. My response to him? “You mean, I got all worked up because your butt called me?” I’m calmed down but boy oh boy is he gonna get it when I see him next time! That is after I’ve hugged him and made sure he’s really okay.
This morning reminded me of the Mother whose son was in the sandbox and his phone was activated when he accidently leaned on it, and called her, all she could hear were spurts of gunfire. Ended up that he was fine too. Major oops! on that one, eh eh eh, sorry mom.
Note to all of our sons and daughters serving: please activate your key guard when you aren’t using your phone. It will be a tremendous help out all of us already worried and nervous parents in keeping our sanity!
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?
I’ve been a BSM for 3 years now and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve sent a lot of packages, cards and more over to my son and his buddies to let all of them know that they are in my thoughts and prayers. I’ve cried A LOT and worried even more. I cry at movies, when watching the news, while washing the dishes and in my sleep. I’ve also cried tears of joy upon seeing him come home for some R&R, at his graduation from BCT and after receiving his phone calls while he was in the sand. A friend told me she has cried enough tears to fill a swimming pool since her sons have been in. It’s just a part of me now, the crying and worrying. I can’t help it, it’s a part of being a BSM.
You see, I don’t have just 3 sons that I gave birth to, I have countless sons and daughters now. My own son made me a part of this huge family when he enlisted, just as all of the others did to their own parents when they signed up. They made us a family of thousands. I stand together with my BSM’s at Homecomings, Memorials, and more. I share in their joy and their sorrow. Whether their child is now a Veteran or still active, they are a BSM. They are my sisters and always will be..
I had the honor of being invited to an event by another group of BSM’s in my state. So, earlier this week, I attended a memorial for the fallen from my State and it was both sorrowful and joyous. The families, I have found out, are resilient. There were tables set up in several rooms, each dedicated to their Soldier, their Son or Daughter. With scrapbooks to look through and photo collages to view of each one of their lives, from beginning to end. Photos of babies, never seen by their Fathers, numerous service medals placed next to Little League photos. Flags in glass cases, crossed sabers on display along with some of their favorite snacks, telling everyone exactly who they were and how much they still loved and missed. I was struck by the parents ability to reach out, part of their healing process, to each other and to every one of us who attended. There were quilts that were lovingly made, some by families and some that were made by others here at home and sent to the soldiers when they arrived wounded. Something to comfort them and remind them of home while they healed. At one table, there was a single photo with the young Soldiers dress uniform lovingly folded next to it. His parents, standing there alone, looking longingly and lovingly at that photograph. I asked if this was their son, and his mother looked at me with some confusion. English was not her or her husbands native language. They were refugees from another war that was not embraced by the American public at the time, but they had made it over here to safety. Their son, in honor of the U.S. giving them refuge and a place to call home that was safer for them, volunteered for OIF because of this, where he gave the ultimate sacrifice in the hope that others would also find a safe haven as his parents did.
When I arrived with my fellow BSM, there weren’t a lot of people there yet, just those who were still setting up tables and the parents who were still fishing through their photos to determine what they wanted to share that day. There were painted portraits, laser-cut portraits, and banners with their pictures on them. While viewing their memories, I was suddenly overcome with emotion while viewing one young Soldier’s lifetime. His position was the same as my own sons and seeing this young man in a photo struck my heart like a bolt of lightening. I stood there and began to cry, my head down, tears slowly rolling over my cheeks. As I reached for a tissue (there was a box at every table), a woman approached me and asked me “hey Mom, do you need a hug?” I turned around and nodded and she gave me a warm, loving hug. I pointed to the picture of this young man and told her that I was so moved, knowing that this young man had served in the same position as my own son. She smiled and nodded and said “yes, my son really loved what he did.” This was HER son’s memorial table and she was the one consoling me! We hugged again and I thanked her for her sacrifice as her son looked on, smiling.
I hope I never have to make a memorial table for my son but I know that if I do, my family, my sisters will be there with me.