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Blue Star Mothers Offer Constant Care

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2000 – They’re there when military men and women head overseas. They're there to shower them with love when they come home again. Their thoughts are with them every day, no matter where they are.

 

They are the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., whose members hang blue stars in their windows whenever their children join the armed forces. 

 

Army Capt. George H. Maines conceived the idea for the Blue Star Mothers in 1942. He ran a newspaper article in Flint, Mich., on Jan 22, 1942, requesting information about children serving in the armed forces. More than 1,000 mothers responded.

 

“By March 8, 1942, more than 600 mothers organized the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.,” said Susan  Naill, a member of the national board of directors and national recording secretary. Naill also serves as deputy of the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service.

 

In 1942, chapters quickly formed in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oregon, Iowa, Washington, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and New York, she noted.

 

“However the blue star flag was created in 1917 and people hung it in their windows to denote that a member of the family was serving in the armed forces,” said Naill, who became a Blue Star Mother in 1993. “The blue star flag was designed and patented by World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry who had two sons serving on the front line. This flag quickly became the unofficial symbol of a child in service.”

 

On Sept. 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read the following into the Congressional Record: “… The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother -- their children."

Also during World War I, the blue star became gold if a service member was killed or died on active duty. The Gold Star Mothers of America, Inc. came from this group.

 

Blue Star Mothers’ sons and daughters returned home safely from a war zone. Gold Star Mothers children were killed in action or are listed as missing.

 

“Blue Star Mothers have tomorrows with their children, but Gold Star Mothers only have yesterdays,” Naill said.

 

“I think this legacy has been stored and almost forgotten over the years,” Naill said. “Many of our military sons and daughters don’t know about the significance of the stars -- the blue for hope and pride; the gold for sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom. Serving in the armed forces is an honor to our country, to our principles and to our faith.”

 

Naill said the Blue Star Mothers’ original goals were ”to bring our sons home, to ensure they received the benefits they deserved, help service member’s families, help each other and to be there if something happened.” Over the years, the goals have broadened to rehabilitation, hospital work, children’s welfare and civil defense.

 

Blue Star Mothers do much more than volunteer in VA hospitals and outreach centers, she noted. “We work in physical and emotional rehabilitation, help with medical supplies, transportation, food, clothing and friendship, gratitude and love,” Naill said. “We show our children and America's sons and daughters that we appreciate them and their service.”

 

During the Persian Gulf War, the mothers sent a variety of items to service members, including cards, toilet paper, candy, cookies, cameras, microwavable food, toothbrushes, magazines, local newspapers, writing paper, pens and letters from school children thanking them, Naill said.

 

“If they come home hurt, we’re there at the hospitals,” Naill said. “If my son had come home hurt, I would have wanted a mother to be there for him, whether I could get there or not.”

 

She said her mother hung a blue star in her window  when her father fought in World War II and the Korean War. “My mother told me that she never  wanted the blue star to turn to gold because she had an uncle who had died during World War I,”  Naill said. “The first thing I did when my son went  into the service was to get a blue star for my window. I wanted everyone to see how much my child was giving for our country.”

Naill said she became a fixture at the armed forces recruiting station in Gathersburg, Md., when her son, then Marine Corps Cpl. Jason Benedick, deployed to the Persian Gulf with the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines. At the suggestion of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brenda Wolf, now serving at Marine Corps headquarters in Arlington, Va., Naill and a co-worker formed a support group called the Montgomery (County, Md.) Armed Services Support.

 

More than 100 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends joined the group. They raised money and had service plaques dedicated to Montgomery County residents who served in the gulf. They also had a special plaque made for Air Force Capt. Thomas C. Bland, the only Montgomery County resident who was killed during the war.

 

The support group also made baskets, posters and cards for the POWs who returned to the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

 

“My daughter, Jennifer Queen, 36, was a great support for me during the Persian Gulf War,” Naill noted. “She also had a half brothers, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brad Sullivan serving aboard the USS John F. Kennedy. My grandchildren Ashley, Samanatha, and James Queen, have helped in many of the support activities to our service personnel.”

 

Some mothers do volunteer work with the USO, making ditty bags and greeting service personnel and their families. Naill said a young man or woman in a strange town or country needs to know someone is there to greet them and to listen to their concerns.

 

Naill said Blue Star Mothers have been active in civil defense since 1942, doing things like finding food and shelter for people devastated by hurricane and floods.

 

Blue Star Mothers don’t have a permanent headquarters, so the headquarters travels with the national president, Naill noted.

 

“We used to have a home, but there wasn't much need for it,” she said. “Our numbers have dwindled throughout the years, but we still maintain a strong core.”

 

Membership is at an all time low. “We have about 1,200 members nationwide,” Naill said. “There were about 30,000 members during World War II and several thousand during the Korean War and Vietnam War.”

 

“You can find support, the joy of giving and also find people who will understand if something happens,” Naill said. “Even in peacetime they don’t always come back as they left. We have strength in our sisters. We also feel a kindred spirit to our Gold Star Mothers.”

 

Mothers interested in becoming a Blue Star Mother should write to:

 

Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.

Box 555

Kensington, MD 20895-0555

 

Or, they can call Susan Naill at or send a fax to: (301) 949-0114.

 

Their e-mail address is: bluestarmom@hotmail.com (Susan Naill, Maryland)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSusan Naill poses with a large "Veterans' Honor" rose in the Veterans' Rose Garden in Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery. Jackson and Perkins, the largest and oldest rose-growing company in the country, donated the rose garden in May 1999. . "The Veterans' Honor Rose is a living reminder of our children," Naill said. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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