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Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Military Mother's Day

spr09_02Happy Mother's Day!

The most wonderful of spring days to all of you who have put your time and love and energy into caring for your children, making sure they have the tools and confidence to go out into the world and live a full, healthy and productive life. For our military mothers, the pride of seeing her child -- now, all grown up -- in uniform, must be an enormous one.

On par with their first steps, or the day they graduated from high school, that first glance must make the heart swell. But, I imagine the heart may as well be wracked with anxiety at having a son or daughter deployed to a combat zone.

It's a range of emotion most Americans can't fathom.

Perhaps rivaled only by the feelings military spouses may have when their mate is shipped off, a mother whose child is at war holds her breath until their safe return. [A recent NYT piece on military mothers and wives being prepared for the return of their loved ones in the next few weeks is well worth a read.]

There are other mothers in this equation, too.

Mothers are serving overseas for the first time in large numbers while their children anxiously wait for them to come home.

Unfortunately, some will return home from Afghanistan or Iraq with physical or psychological wounds that require family caregivers to drop what they're doing, and rally around to comfort and care for their favorite service member.

Volumes have been written and spoken about the experience of our military families since the Global War on Terror began in earnest in 2001. It may feel as though you've heard everything you care to hear. Or, maybe you believe that most of the struggles they have had to bear have been alleviated with the past years' investigations and/or elections.

You would be wrong, I'm afraid.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

First lady Michelle Obama sat down for an exclusive Pentagon Channel interview in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which took place this past Friday, as well as Mother's Day. In it, she outlines her desire to bring the needs of our military families to the forefront of our nation's consciousness.

Part Two of the interview (which is especially good), along with related news clips, in extended. From the first lady on down, we all have a role in pulling together to help take some of the burdens off of those who nurture our military veterans.

Your mother would be proud that you did.

Part Two

Laura Incalcaterra, Lower Hudson Valley [NY] Journal News:

A flower delivery is typically a welcome treat, but for some moms this Mother's Day it may be even sweeter than usual. Florists throughout the state have volunteered to deliver free flowers to about 150 mothers whose sons, daughters or husbands are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with the New York National Guard.

The florists provide the flowers and the delivery at their own expense, and several said they were happy to do so.

"I wanted to honor their sacrifice of being over there," said MariEllyn Dykstra, owner of A. Dykstra Florist and Greenhouse in Chestnut Ridge and a driving force behind the effort.

"They left their jobs," Dykstra said. "They left their mortgages. They left their wives and their husbands. They left their children. "They didn't expect to serve two, three tours, and these people are all in their late 20s, their 30s, their 40s, their 50s," she said. "They're not young enlistees."

Dykstra started the project last year, delivering about 15 bouquets of flowers throughout Rockland. She enlisted the help of her husband, Jerry Donnellan, director of the Rockland Veterans Service Agency and a Vietnam War veteran.

He was asked to provide Dykstra with the names of local mothers with children or spouses in the two war zones, but the contact information for military personnel and their families is private.

Donnellan reached out to the New York National Guard office in Orangetown, asking for help in spreading the word about the Mother's Day deliveries. The effort went statewide after Donnellan asked Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef to send a letter to Gov. David Paterson, who is the New York Guard's commander in chief.

This year, a flier about the deliveries was sent out, via the chain of command, to those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Donnellan said the flowers helped the mothers know the community cared.

"There's a lot of time when she's got to be feeling like she's the only one on the block or in the town who's got a kid over there," Donnellan said. "This is a way for us to say, we may not feel your pain completely, but we feel your sacrifice and we want to let you know that."

Cindy Larson, The Fort Wayne [IN] News-Sentinel:

Flowers, candy, jewelry, maybe even a nice dinner out are just a few of the treats many moms hope for and get on Mother's Day.

But mothers whose children serve in the armed forces often wish for something more simple: They want their children to be safe. Or they just wish they could be with them on Mother's Day, or at least speak to them.

We spoke to four women who are members of the Fort Wayne Area Blue Star Mothers of Indiana. The organization is for people whose sons and daughters are serving or have served in a branch of the U.S. military. They support each other as well as local soldiers and veterans. Here's what they had to say:
Left investment job to enlist

Anita Trotter's son, Jonathan, now 32, had a good job working in Chicago for the investment firm Goldman Sachs at the beginning of the decade. Jonathan's priorities changed when many Goldman Sachs employees died in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Shortly after, he told his mother he wanted to join the military.

“I didn't think it was a good idea,” Trotter said. “9/11 seemed like such an ugly thing, and I just thought this would be an ugly involvement for the United States.”

Jonathan listened to his heart, not his mother. He flies B-52 bombers for the Air Force. He's been deployed three times now, and when he's deployed, his mother doesn't know where he is. But she says her situation is better than other military moms, because “I know if no B-52s go down, he's safe. Mothers with sons on the ground, they don't have that safe feeling.”

Still, with a child in the military, “it's not like your child's in college in the next state.”

He's overseas on special assignment now and doesn't have the option to come home for Mother's Day. Trotter says her biggest wish for Mother's Day “probably is just a call from overseas, and let me have more than two minutes,” she said.

Her son has changed from his years in the military, and she says it's mostly a good change. “I'm very proud of Jonathan. Or Capt. Trotter, as they call him.”

Please read the rest to learn how three other Blue Star mothers are coping this Mother's Day. Meanwhile, the sacrifices of our Gold Star Mothers is being honored in New Jersey.

Jessica Diklitch, Asbury Park Press:

Sadly missed. Always loved. Never forgotten.

That is a phrase etched on a monument unveiled Sunday at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in honor of Gold Star Mothers — those who have lost a son or daughter in war. The monument was dedicated by Veterans of Foreign Wars District 6 and its Ladies Auxiliary, based in Monmouth County.

"Their children are our heroes, but they are the ones who deal with loss every day," said Lorraine Brooks, Ladies Auxiliary state president. "This monument is to show we do care about you, and we do appreciate all, not only what your children do for us, but all you do for us every day."

A mass of umbrellas gathered in front of the monument while VFW and Gold Star Mother members addressed the crowd of about 70.

The monument dedication coincided with the 50th anniversary of Loyalty Day, a day to "recognize and reaffirm the principles of American democracy," said Bill Grieman, past state VFW commander. According to the VFW of the United States Web site, Loyalty Day began as Americanization Day in 1921 as a counter to the Communists' May 1 celebration of the Russian Revolution.

"We proudly honor those who have fought and those who are fighting today to protect our liberty," said Grieman, who is also District 6 Gold Star Mothers committee chairman.

The unveiling for the mothers, most of whom wore white, followed the completion of the Loyalty Day program and parade of service flags.

"We know we can't mend your broken heart, but maybe with this monument we can enlighten others of your sacrifice," said Frank Romeo, District 6 commander.

And from Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff and mom to four kids, via The FOX Forum:

I have been honored to meet countless wives and mothers who imagined a life completely different for their loved one. They wanted only the most basic things for their children. These weren’t lofty hopes and dreams, just the stuff of ordinary lives.

Instead of the sons and daughters they care for who are paralyzed or amputees, brain injured or breathing on a trach tube, these mothers’ dreams are for their children to utter a word again, walk independently or maybe even attend a few classes at a local college. These are the thousands of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who find themselves back at home with lives interrupted. Depression, anger, the inability to hold a job, communicate effectively or organize a day are often the hallmarks of those with the signature injury of this war—a brain injury.

This Mother’s Day, instead of receiving flowers or presents from their children, thousands of military moms and wives, many with young children, will be providing around the clock care for their loved one.

Our veterans and service members are the only ones who have been asked to sacrifice after Sept 11th. And this Mother’s Day, I believe all of us need to come together and honor the mothers of America’s wounded heroes.

And while you are honoring the mothers in your life, think about donating one dollar for someone who risked his life for you –- regardless of your politics.

The [Bob Woodruff Foundation's] goal is to raise a dollar for each of the 1.65 million service members who have cycled through Iraq an Afghanistan. The money goes to local support services and resources to assist their recovery from the physical and psychological wounds of war.

I can’t think of a better way to honor America’s hero Moms on Mother’s Day. And I’m going to guess that after you’ve done something so good, those dogs and burgers at the BBQ will taste even better when the world feels a little brighter.

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