Blue Star Mothers organize

All mothers have a lot in common, but a new organization that meets in Park Rapids brings together moms with a special bond. Northwoods Chapter 9 of the Blue Star Mothers of America received its charter in August, becoming the ninth chapter in Mi...

All mothers have a lot in common, but a new organization that meets in Park Rapids brings together moms with a special bond.

Northwoods Chapter 9 of the Blue Star Mothers of America received its charter in August, becoming the ninth chapter in Minnesota.

Even though they just received their charter, the Northwoods chapter moms have been active. On Memorial Day they donated a special wreath at ceremonies at the All-Veterans Memorial and they participated in the 4th of July parade in Park Rapids.

Recently, members started collecting Christmas cards to send to service members who might not receive them from family or others at home.

The community is invited to participate by dropping cards in unsealed envelopes in designated boxes at local businesses. If you want a reply, you may include your name and address inside the card. The Blue Star Mothers will address them.


The chapter also had a pie sale to start raising money for Christmas packages to send to servicemen and women from the area. They have a list from the American Legion with 35 names and know there are others. At a cost of $8 per package, they are looking for donations.

The main purpose of organizing is to support each other, said founding mother Donna Walsh, who has two sons in the military.

Joey East said she belongs to a Navy moms organization but was glad to learn she could connect with moms locally.

"This was our way of finding each other," added Michele DeCrans.

So far, the chapter has nine members but welcomes more. Members can be mothers or stepmothers of active or inactive members of any branch of the military service. Spouses, children and other relatives are invited to be associate members.

The Northwoods chapter meets at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Park Rapids Area Library's small downstairs meeting room.

Carol Nelson, president of Brainerd's Lakes Area Chapter and the Department of Minnesota, helped charter the Park Rapids organization.

"It was an exciting event, knowing how many more mothers and families will be helped by this and that's what matters," Nelson said.


State and local activities

At the state level, Nelson said, the Blue Star Mothers provide financial assistance to the Fisher House in Minneapolis. Similar to a Ronald McDonald House, The Fisher House is where people can stay when a family member is at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital.

The state organization also donates to the VA hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Cloud.

On the local level, chapters work with other service organizations and raise money to send packages to service men and women. The Blue Star Mothers is a 501© 3 so donations are tax-deductible, Nelson said.

"The biggest thing about the Blue Star Mothers though is they are giving back to soldiers and to the other moms because they understand why you can't sleep at night or see news on television that is upsetting," Nelson said.

"Co-workers and others may say they understand, but there's nothing like another mom who knows about having a son or daughter who's deployed. It can mean weeks without talking to your son or daughter and the others can give some reassurance. That really helps."

Local chapters also can be involved with reintegration and homecoming. "That is such a meaningful time," Nelson added.

"Blue Star Mothers are very passionate about what they do for families and servicemen and women," Nelson said. "The group in Park Rapids is a wonderful bunch."


Nelson, whose own son recently returned from duty in Afghanistan, said the bottom line is "we're here for them. We are neither for nor against war. We are for our children."

History dates to WWII

In a tradition that started during World War II, Blue Star Mothers have their own flag. It has a blue star, representing each family member in the service. The star or stars are on a white background, bordered with a red band and gold trim. During past wars and again now, Blue Star Mothers display these flags in the windows of their homes to denote the service of a son or daughter.

Blue Star flags may be purchased at .

Minnesota's first chapter was started at Bird Island in 2003, 46 years after Congress chartered the Blue Star Mothers of America.

The organization had been active since World War II when mothers of servicemen began meeting in Flint, MI. This group formed the first chapter. Then others organized in Michigan and several other states.

During World War II, members worked in hospitals, train stations and packed care packages for soldiers.

The organization waned in size over the years, but according to the Blue Star Mothers of America Web site, "being attacked on our own soil has once again started mothers hanging flags in their windows at home proclaiming pride in the fact that we have children protecting our freedom during a time of war."

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