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Blue Star Mothers Unite to Support Troops and Each Other
January, 2005 - Issue #4
"I don't want you to go back, but I know you have to," Pam Sweeny says quietly to her son Erik. He's been home from Iraq for additional training, and spent part of his leave time helping Santa Clarita's Blue Star Mothers make care packages for his comrades. Louder, Pam announces that her son turned 21 overseas, but that they celebrated when he returned home. Privately, she admits that having a son on active military duty can be paralyzing. "I would eat ice cream and barbequed potato chips while lying on the couch, watching the news, 24-7. I couldn't function. My friends didn't understand. The group has given me an outlet to do something."

The group is the Blue Star Mothers, chartered in Santa Clarita last year. Part of a national organization, the BSMs of the SCV work to support one another, as well as the men and women fighting in our name continents away. While only moms and step-moms can be official BSMs, wives, girlfriends, dads, and more can join as associate members.

"We are determined to not have a pity party," says Tina Perez of Canyon Country, local founder and president of BSM. A small woman with a powerful voice, Perez's hands often graze over a small picture pinned above her heart. It's of her son, a tank commander with the Marines. "It isn't easy to have a child in the military, but we come together, support each other, and do things so that our kids over there, all of them, know that we care, that we're thinking of them, that we want them to be safe, that we appreciate the sacrifice they're making for us."

Supporting the troops is a primary goal for the BSMs. One night in November, the group came together to make care packages. "There are a lot of soldiers that don't get anything from home - no letters, nothing. These care packages mean a lot to them. It lets them know that they aren't forgotten," says Perez. The most coveted care package item, say the moms, is a package of baby wipes. "It's so dusty there," one says. "My son went without a shower for two weeks," reports another. Socks are also on the high-demand list. Soaring temperatures, lack of bathing facilities and uneven terrain make clean foot-ware a luxury. Candy, playing cards, q-tips, granola bars, sun block and more also help give the troops a taste (sometimes literally) of home.

Getting items donated is always a struggle, but mailing the heavy packages is also a burden the moms face. It costs between $45 and $55 to send one 20-pound box to Iraq, an expense that quickly adds up when you're mailing over 1,000 care packages.

Baby wipes and granola bars aren't the only items the BSMs send overseas. The group recently began working on Operation Dignity, which provides pajamas for injured troops. "When a kid gets hurt and needs serious treatment, their clothes are cut off of them and then they are shipped from Iraq or Afghanistan as far away as Germany, all the while wearing only a flimsy cape that's open in the back. They put themselves on the line for our country and they deserve more than a hospital gown; that's why we've been collecting new pj's to send over," says Perez.

Other operations for the local BSMs include Operation Paperback, an ongoing book drive to provide reading material for active military in hot zones. The group also provides veterans' support at local hospitals and a quarterly newsletter to keep the community informed. Soon they'll be working on the Hearts for Heroes Program, encouraging school children to create artwork and cards offering encouragement to the troops.

Regardless of your position on the war in Iraq, there's no negating that the men and women, sons and daughters, fighting overseas deserve our prayers and support. Please help the Blue Star Mothers send more care package items, more pajamas, more cards, more books - your assistance benefits both the kids fighting and the moms in Santa Clarita who deserve to know that their child's sacrifice has not gone unnoticed.

Monetary and product donations can be dropped off at Queen Anne Stitches (286-1248) near IHOP in Saugus or at Valencia Acura (255-7000). For more information on the Blue Star Mothers, visit www.bluestarmothersofscv.org.
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