Local Blue Star Mothers offer supplies, support during holidays
All throughout history times of war have proved a pivotal hardship to the spirit of any individual involved.
Uncertainty and fear become rational when coupled with the thought that a loved one is potentially in a dangerous warzone.
But as many families begin to gather and reminisce over the year gone by, in its lowlights and as well as its blessings, these desolate feelings can be heightened over the holiday season when a loved one isn’t able to return home.
Right around five years ago, these feelings were all new to Connie Carmichael.
Her and her husband Russ’s son, Logan, was stationed overseas in Iraq while serving as medic (the first of two tours he would offer the nation).
Looking for solace in the empathy of others, Connie joined the Blue Star Mothers group of Park Rapids.
Through the local chapter of the group, Carmichael found she was not only able to find understanding through socializing with others in a similar circumstance, but she was also able to physically help her son, as well as, other soldiers stationed away from their families.
Small in numbers, but large in will, Carmichael explained the group’s main goals during the long holiday season.
“We are a very small group, but we do try to raise money so that we can send out Christmas care packages to the soldiers who can’t be home for the holidays. ‘Deployed’ can mean either in an active warzone, or also a lot of soldiers who are stationed stateside, but can’t be home for the holidays,” said Connie Carmichael.
“(Soldiers) will get a special box from the Blue Star moms that are filled with goodies like socks, cards, magazines and a wide array of other things. We also have a couple main fundraisers in the summertime and part of our annual fundraising will go back to the state level where they will send it back into different departments to soldiers in need.”
Not only providing physical aid to soldiers in need, Carmichael and the Blue Star Mothers provide another service perhaps more heartening than a warm blanket and a magazine.
“We also try to be a support group for each other. When your kids are deployed – especially during the holidays – it can be a very stressful experience for moms and dads. Those of us who have gone through that try to help new moms or dads that are experiencing it for the first time,” Carmichael said, “not that we can do a ton, but we can at least say we have been there and we know what you are going through. The most important aspect is being there for others to have an avenue to speak to.”
“It’s such a sacrifice for these kids to make. It’s a big deal when your son or daughter makes the decision to go into the service – knowing that your life is going to be forever altered by it.”
All mothers of someone in the military, past or present, are encouraged to join by applying locally and paying a onetime $20 membership due.
As actively engaged in empathy as they are activism, the non-exclusive organization also allows dads to join.
“(For mothers) once you’re a Blue Star mom, you will always be a Blue Star mom. The dads are a huge integral part of what we do as moms also. Sometimes dads are left out when you think about the emotional aspect of having kids in the military. But in our group we have a really good core of dads that want to be involved in everything that we do for our kids,” Carmichael said.
“There is also talk about a Blue Star dad program, but right now the dads are just part of the group as associate members.”
Anyone wanting to join the Blue Star Mothers group can do so as associate members, allowing them the ability to volunteer and be as involved as possible.
“We also do other things and work with different organizations in Park Rapids to help bring certain things to the military. One year I was asking for donations and the school felt that there were a couple of elementary grades that would like to participate. It ended up being a big deal and really fun,” said Carmichael.
“Now (second grade teacher) Jill Stevenson calls every year and asks for the names of local soldiers that they can send letters and supplies to.”
Carmichael told the story about a local soldier she knew several years ago stationed in Afghanistan.
“When we were chatting, he mentioned that he could maybe use a blanket or two. In one week we collected 70 blankets and over $300 for shipping,” Carmichael said.
“When the community knows about it, they just come out; those kinds of things have been really rewarding. Had I not been this involved through Blue Star Mothers, I would have not have been able to make that connection and see it happening, which is really cool.”
Fearing only a gloomy outlook, Carmichael quickly pointed out that monthly Blue Star Mothers meetings can be lighthearted and filled with more joy than worry.
“We have some fun get-togethers and monthly meetings at my house. We do some social things and we talk about how proud we are of our children. We really enjoy seeing each other and getting together to talk about our kids and the sacrifices they have made – the dads too. There are lots of highs and lows when you have kids in the military,” Carmichael said.
“There are questions that come up, even when they are home. Some of us that have gone through that and participated in those things before can help guide newer parents through that process.”
Carmichael is fine with the group’s relatively small participant number, knowing it means that more local children are at home than not.
However, as a support system, she would like to see the Blue Star Mothers grow.
“We’re hoping to build our membership and start to grow even a little bit more. What we’re finding is that the need is getting less. But I do believe it is a good thing when we are sending out fewer packages because that means that more and more of our children are home. We do not have a database. We are word of mouth only, but www.Bluestarmothers.org has our contact information,” Carmichael said.
Families with members serving in the military are invited to publish a free Christmas message and photo in the Enterprise for the Dec. 18 issue, which will also be posted on our website at www.parkrapidsenterprise.com. The deadline is Dec. 12 and submissions can be mailed to 203 Henrietta Ave. N. or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.