Blue Star Mothers
Sending “Freedom Boxes” to our Troops
In March 2003, the Bush administration declared war on terrorism. Thousands of American soldiers were sent overseas to ward off terrorism and the al-Qaeda network. Today, there are 138,000 American soldiers in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan fighting in this war.
Many soldiers who were sent to Iraq were from Oklahoma. Many were stationed at Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill. And many were members of families raised in Edmond. There are more than 1,000 military families who live in Edmond today.
Those who don’t personally know anyone fighting overseas can only imagine how hard it is for the families who have had to say goodbye to their loved ones as they leave.
A group of mothers who have each had their turn sending off their sons or daughters decided to turn their grief into support. They provide support for all the soldiers who have fought in the war on terrorism, those who are currently fighting for freedom, and those who will soon head overseas. They’re called the Blue Star Mothers Chapter 8.
Cheryl Collins, the founding member of the Blue Star Mothers Chapter 8, said: “We send comfort boxes called Freedom Boxes to the troops and to the military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. We send (the soldiers supplies like) sun block, drink mixes, canned ready-to-eat foods, T-shirts or sweats, flip flops, soaps, toiletries, DVDs and CDs, magazines, paperback books, stationary and pens. We also personalize their boxes.”
Jan Martin, the new president of BSM Chapter 8 and the mother of Army Pfc. David Martin with the 101st Airborne Air Assault, said the group is a way to support the troops. “As mothers who have sons and daughters who are in war, it is a support group for us,” she said. “It’s a therapeutic support group. It also allows us to help society.”
“There are a lot of soldiers who don’t get mail from home,” she added. “We don’t like to know that. We want to keep their morale high and let the soldiers know that Americans do care and they’re not forgotten.”
Brenda Finley, mother of Airman 1st Class Matthew Cole Finley, said “the soldiers feel so good about what they’re doing.”
Her son told her that fighting this war is part of his job. And that he’d rather be over there fighting than for them to be over here.
Being a Blue Star Mother “allows us to have our son’s and daughter’s backs. We are able to closely watch the legislators and look out for (our children’s) best interest,” Collins said.
Valerie Fitter’s son, Army CW3 Matthew Fitter, and nephew, National Guard Col. William Bartheld, served in Iraq. She said her son told her, “every time I got a package from the Blue Star Mothers, it was like Christmas. I was so excited.”
“We want the soldiers to know that the Blue Star Mothers are there and we care about them,” Collins said.
The Blue Star Mothers of Edmond and North Oklahoma City began in April 2003.
“My son was in Iraq, going into Baghdad. I needed a support group,” Collins said. “I wanted another mother to talk to so, I searched through websites. In April 2003 I was contacted by the Blue Star Mothers in Tulsa. They said several women were interested in forming a support group in my area so we started this one. Our first membership meeting was held in June 2004. On July 19, 2004, we had our first donation drive.”
The community has been very helpful, Collins said. Businesses and schools have sent donations; one company sent 1,200 boxes, she said.
There was a good turnout for last month’s packing parties, Martin said, and New Covenant Methodist Church allowed the chapter to use its facility for all of August.
“The Edmond school district has also been supportive and helpful,” Collins said. “The students made cards and pictures for the soldiers. They’d put their names and addresses on them and the soldiers would reply.”
A Boy Scout from Midwest City is also helping, Martin said. He’s made 649 Cool Hugs to put in care packages.
“My cousin served in Iraq and he said how hot it was, like 120 to 125 degrees. So I took the idea of Cool Hugs to the Eagle board. Cool Hugs hold water to help keep you cool,” said Roderick Kohl, 15, with Troop 267. “My goal was to make 500 Cool Hugs and we ended up making 649. It took (my troop) three days to make them. We made them out of 100 percent cotton fabric. They are sand-colored so they’re camouflaged. I was going to send the (Cool Hugs) to the 185th Airlift Squadron, but they stopped sending planes over there so the Blue Star Mothers stepped in.”
Since the inception of the Blue Star Mothers of Edmond and North Oklahoma City, members have shipped more than 1,864 care packages.
“I’m proud to be a part of the Blue Star Mothers legacy. In World War II there were no BSM organizations to do this. Women had to work really hard to get care packages to their soldiers,” Collins said.
“No matter when a war is declared, the Blue Star Mothers are going to support the soldiers and show we care,” Martin added. “We don’t want to hear what we heard after the Vietnam War that the soldiers didn’t feel supported by the American people.”
“I think the hardest thing to understand for families who don’t have an active duty family member is the stress active families are under,” Collins said.
This year, the goal is to grow in membership, Martin said. And the Blue Star Mothers are always looking for more soldiers to care for. “You can’t send a package to just any soldier anymore because of security reasons,” Martin said.
“We get names through parents, friends, and church groups,” Collins added. “We keep our lists confidential and we check it every two months to make sure they’re still over there. We also send several boxes to one soldier so he can give (the extras) to fellow soldiers.”
They’re also looking for more volunteers.
“We really need donated office space. All of our money goes towards supplies and postage for the soldiers. We prefer space in Edmond, but we’d be grateful for any help we can get,” Martin said.
“We are also open to donations. Monetary (donations) work best so we can shop for the soldiers, but we will take supplies too,” Martin said.” The soldiers are asking for snack products, small boxes of laundry detergent, non-alcohol baby wipes, and entertainment (outlets) such as CDs and DVDs.
If you’re interested in joining the Blue Star Mothers, visit their website at www.BlueStarMothers.com.
“You do not have to have an active military member in your family (to join the Blue Star Mothers),” Martin said.
You don’t even have to be a mother. Fathers, brothers, sisters – all are welcome.
The Blue Star Mothers want everyone to remember that as time goes on, it’s important for us to continue to support the troops. As Martin put it, we need to acknowledge that “they need our support and that we will continue (to provide it) until the very last soldier comes home.”