It’s easy for us to get caught up in the day-to-day of our busy lives and forget that we are a country at war. Those with loved ones in the military don’t forget, not even for a minute. While the soldiers stand stoic in Afghanistan, their mothers at home fight an emotional battle of their own. Just ask Bonny Beck of Canandaigua, mother of a daughter and two sons – one was in the Navy, one in the Marines. When she first heard about the Blue Star Mothers in 2005, she joined immediately.
“Having children in harm’s way is very difficult, but meeting and talking with other mothers who are in the same situation is a precious thing,” says Bonny, current vice president of the Blue Star Mothers New York Chapter #1 (“New York Pride of Ontario County”), which meets on the second Saturday of the month at the Bloomfield American Legion. It’s one of more than 200 chapters of Blue Star Mothers scattered across the country.
This nationwide nonprofit organization of moms with children in the military was formed during World War II. Perhaps you’ve seen the banners embroidered with a blue star that they hang from their front doors.
Their objective is to serve and support our veterans, as well as our deployed troops and their families on the home front. They do so by sending them boxes full of goods and supplies to make their days as normal as possible. Many of the things you and I take for granted – like socks – may be hard-to-come-by commodities for soldiers in the deserts in the Middle East.
For soldiers’ families, the mothers provide support and comfort, and for veterans, the Blue Star Mothers of America help them readjust.
Like other groups, the Blue Star Mothers of the Finger Lakes area generate a number of activities and events all year long. But unique to this group is the Blue Star Canteen located on the grounds of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center. The building, an old farmhouse leased to the group at no cost by the federal government, was renovated by volunteers and today provides “refreshments, relaxation and resources” to all active military personnel, veterans and their families. It’s open each Monday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.
During the holidays, the group organizes the “Holidays for Heroes” Project. Darling’s Christmas Tree Farm in Clifton Springs donates live trees that are boxed up and mailed to troops overseas. In addition, the mothers collect donations and gifts for military families in need.
Watch for Blue Star Mothers’ special events, like its tree-lighting and star-hanging ceremony in Kershaw Park, and a Spaghetti Dinner in April. Visit www.bluestarmothersny1.org to find more events, and to donate. Its activities are supported solely by donations from individuals, small businesses and groups like the VFW, the American Legion, the Patriot Guard Riders and others. Cash donations are always welcome, but to contribute things to be sent to troops overseas, visit www.bluestarmothersny1.org/WishList/index.html.
LIGHTS OF LOVE: Those Who Serve are the Stars
The Blue Star Mothers have been decorating Canandaigua’s Christmas tree in the Kershaw Park gazebo for the past eight years. In addition to lights, the tree is adorned with colored stars representing soldiers – blue for those currently serving or who have served, silver for wounded, gold for deceased, and black stars for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.
They are hung by local veterans and others in the community during a special Lights of Love service the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The tree remains on display for one month.
A star can be hung at no charge, says the website of the Blue Star Mothers. To have your soldier’s star displayed, print and complete the form on the group’s website. Or write to them with the name of your soldier and the branch of service he or she is (or was) in. Mail it along with a non-returnable picture for the center of the star, and indicate what color it should be. “You may ask for your star back, or we will save it and re-hang it again the following year,” says the website. “Some of the stars are from families of soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It is very interesting and very moving.”
by Hannah Kallet