EATON — Blue Star Mothers of America OH 11 held its annual Christmas Holiday Hugs packing party last week, but this year they had a special guest in Congressman Warren Davidson.
Another special change to the annual event was the date it was held, as the mothers came together on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11, to honor their sons and daughters.
The organization comes together once a year to fill up care packages for service members. The boxes contain items such as: deodorant, razors, body wash, CD’s, DVD’s, car air fresheners, vegan snacks, card games, beef jerky, candy, gum, hand made Christmas cards from kids, letters, individual size cookie packages, and chips in snack size containers.
The Blue Star Mothers sent out 199 boxes to soldiers, with one additional being sent to a K-9, for a total of 200 boxes sent this year.
Normally the event is held in early December, but according to Chapter President Linda Samuels, the date was moved up to ensure every service member received their package before Christmas. This change of date also gave the mothers an opportunity to honor veterans by pinning an American Flag pin onto their lapel.
“Last year we packaged the first weekend in December, as we always do. We got a lot of letters and emails saying that the soldiers, for whatever reason, did not get their boxes until after Christmas,” Samuels said. “We put a lot of Christmas stuff in them, like candy and stockings. This year we decided to move up the date so we knew for sure they would get their package in time.”
As for how they decide who get the packages, Samuels said, “A lot of us belong to different military mom Facebook pages and we post information about what we’re doing. Then mothers will send us addresses.”
Warren Davidson came out to the event as both a congressman and a veteran himself. While he was there he spoke to several of the families and packaged a box to send overseas.
“We’ve done a number of veterans events today. I think it is a great day to remember the people who have served, are serving, and to honor those who are going to be serving,” Davidson said. “I’m a veteran, that is what I thought I would choose as my career. It didn’t turn out that I stayed in as a career and now I have a different way to serve, so it is nice to come and participate,” he said.
“The Oath of Office when you join the military starts out the same as the Oath of Office in Congress. I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. The military side goes on to obey the lawful orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me, something along those lines.
“That first part is the same in Congress. It is just a different way to serve. When I decided to run I looked at why I would tell people I decided to run. I love this country, but everybody loves this country. My wife and I were talking about how we would convey that. We coined the phrase, I love this country with a soldier’s passion,” Davidson added.
“I think that resonates with people, because they know soldiers join because they love the country so much they would defend it. We are defended by people who freely choose to do so. It is humbling to have done it and humbling to be in a position in Congress to get our policy and funding right to make sure that they are equipped to win.”
Before Davidson left, the mothers made sure to pin him with a flag to thank him for his service.
Davidson wasn’t the only one to speak passionately during the packing party. Blue Star Mother Member Julain Jones has watched many members of her family serve in the military and as a response has become passionate about mental health awareness for soldiers.
“My son is a Marine veteran. He has been out for a year and was medically discharged,” she said. “He signed up for two years of inactive duty and five years of active. His first year was inactive, before he left, because they are not able to go into the Marines until they graduate high school, then he did five years of active duty, but the last 18 months was in a pending cycle, because they were discharging him. He basically didn’t do anything for those last 18 months, but he was still in California.
“I had two grandfathers who were both in World War II. Veterans Day has always been very important in our household. One had a lot of influence over my son joining. He basically was so important to everybody in our family and he didn’t talk about it. That is one thing that I have seen that has gotten better. Getting out and spreading the word that it is okay to have those feelings. He had PTSD, but it went non-diagnosed, because he didn’t talk about it.
“That, to me, is the most important thing: to honor the veterans and talk about what they went through. We need to help them get past it. There are so many of them committing suicide. It is not fair to expect them to come back and not have problems. We need to stop this suicide. This is the one time we put the veterans first. We need to let them know that we’re here.”
A support system isn’t only important for veterans, but also for their families. Samuels noted, she joined the Blue Star Mothers for just that.
“You have friends and family who say that they know what you’re going through, but unless they have a child in a war-torn country you don’t know,” she said. “These moms know what I was going through. If I need to cry, we all cry. I can call any one of these moms at any time and they will stop and listen.”
The Blue Star Mothers are a non-profit 501-c3 organization made up of Military Moms, whose children are just starting out in their Military career, have several deployments under their belt or who have left the service and are now Veterans. Chapter OH 11 covers Preble, Butler, and Darke Counties in Ohio, as well as Wayne and Randolph Counties in Indiana.
They are always accepting new members. Meetings are the last Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at L&M Products in Eaton, next to the McDonalds. If you have any questions, contact Linda Samuels at 937-776-4346 daytime, or 937-456-1588 in the evening.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH