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
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.
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
Here we go again … the deployment roller coaster got me again on Sunday night. If you have a son or daughter deployed, you know it well. You are moving through your day, doing the things you do, and suddenly the bottom drops out from under you … you’re in that roller coaster car plunging DOWN, DOWN, DOWN and fast – REALLY FAST! I never did really like roller coasters anyway … it doesn’t thrill me to have my stomach rush up past my lungs into my throat as I careen downward on a narrow track. The big contrast is that on the roller coaster at the fair I knew it was coming … I bought a ticket, got in line, waited my turn to board, and then click, click click we go up the first incline, round the top and careen down!!! Predictable – what goes up – must come down
But now … things trigger my emotions that haven’t before … even last summer a month or so after my son deployed, I asked my Battle Buddy if she would watch “Stop Loss” with me. She did … I was okay. Didn’t like what I saw, but I was okay. A month later I rented “Lions to Lambs” … made it about 15 minutes in and felt a panic attack coming on … put that sucker back in the wrapper and sent it back to Netflix. But then, there are the unpredictable times … walking through a store past the wall of TVs and something comes on the news or going to see “Benjamin Buttons” and the war scene comes on, my daughter says “Mom, close your eyes!” … then there was “Valkyrie” with my husband and my daughter in love I knew it was a war movie, but they’re Nazis for goodness sake – completely unpredictable to feel a panic attack trying to get me in the scene where Tom Cruise is badly wounded – the rest was okay – they were after Hitler – that’s okay with me. But in a split second – my heart kicks in and takes over … in both movies … the soldiers/sailors were somebody’s sons/husbands/daddies/brothers and panic jumped up and grabbed at me. It doesn’t overtake me – I close my eyes and just breathe. That’s my defense … I just breathe … refocus my thoughts … and move on.
I’m a news junkie and just have to stay informed … so admittedly, I make it hard on myself and am doing all the things they told me not to do in Military Family Support Group.
Sometimes though … there are days when I just have to cocoon … you know, stay in my pjs, – stay in the house, don’t answer the phone, and if anyone comes to the door I wouldn’t have answered it either – I’m still in my pjs for goodness sake and can’t pretend that I’m sick. Yes – there’s some crying – and a lot of praying. What’s the hardest? You know your soldier … the hardest part is when you detect in a message or the tone of their voice that they’re down …could be anything getting them down … the food, the heat, the cold, the rain … anything. We do what we can to boost moral … bake cookies, write letters and emails, send pictures and funny cards, mail packages of their favorite things – homemade beef jerky, Chex Mix, gummy bears, games. Then the next message or phone call sounds completely different. They’re out of the funk and have their head straight again. That’s how we want them to be … focused and ready to do their job. The roller coaster is back at the top again … and the view is good. Hurry up summer!!!
Signing off – One Army Mama Bear