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Photo by Dante Fontana
Fear, says Barbara Tears, mother of two Army soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan and the president of the Blue Star Mothers of America (BSM) Sacramento chapter, is the most persistent emotional challenge she faces.
“Some parents do not realize they have raised warriors,” she says. “Or, they do realize it but still live in fear that their child will go to war.”
Established in November of 2005 to provide active duty military, personnel and veterans organizations with support, the Roseville-headquartered BSM follows the blueprint of its national counterpart, which originally formed in 1942 during World War II, and as such remains a non-partisan and non-political organization in order to represent the religious, cultural and politically diverse American military.
Seventy-two members (moms) and 23 associate members (extended family) comprise BSM-Sacramento. It is a small number compared to the nearly 5,607 fatalities of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, as reported on August 9 by The Washington Post’s “Faces of the Fallen,” which makes the group’s efforts significantly impressive and even more important. Local soldiers currently serving in the Armed Forces, after all, were once neighborhood kids that first served you lemonade in a plastic cup for 10 cents from a makeshift stand. They are also someone’s son or daughter – maybe your own.
If “fear” is the first word that comes to mind when Tears thinks about her sons fighting in Afghanistan, “pride” quickly follows and, thanks to BSM, “camaraderie.” “There are times when we think about our kids or someone says something about the war and we break down crying,” she says. “We live with the emotion of that moment, and it comes easily.”
BSM star-categorized programs – blue stars representing active duty military and gold stars symbolizing fallen heroes – help funnel emotion into action. Both subgroups are generously supported. BSM organizes three annual care package packing parties on their behalf, and coordinates a special family picnic and holiday party for Gold Star Families. BSM-Sacramento relies on community donations to fill care packages, stage drop-off centers at local fire stations and churches, and supports these drives with themed fundraisers and private donations.
BSM also helps fund veterans group initiatives with supplies and monetary assistance. Also a VAVS (Veterans Affairs Volunteer Services) Representative for Blue Star Moms with Mather Hospital, Tears helps collect hygiene products as well as lap quilts/afghans and other items for the hospital. As well, VAVS and BSM members provide transportation assistance to veterans to make their medical appointments.
Holiday care packages will be assembled on November 13 at the VFW Hall in Roseville. Desired items include beef jerky (a favorite of soldiers), oatmeal, hot chocolate, soup, and thick socks and toe and hand warmers to wear inside boots and gloves (most service members are primarily stationed in Afghanistan, where temperatures are extremely cold). Games and occasion cards are also accepted. For a list of needed donations, review the BSM wish list online.
For more information or to get involved, visit sacramentobluestarmoms.org.