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.
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.