As the holiday season moves full speed ahead, I keep thinking about the Mighty Moms and other mothers whom I met among patriots at the Union League’s Veteran’s Day celebration.
Mighty Moms are mothers of service men and women in the U.S. military who have been severely wounded. Their profiles in courage are told in a recently released book, Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed, authored by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s commentary editor Kevin Ferris and communications specialist Dava Guerin.
These mothers and their wounded warriors — for whom every day is Veteran’s Day — were honored in a ceremony that brought tears to the eyes of many audience members, even strong, silent types in uniform.
Seven of these wounded warriors suffered unbearable injuries caused by hidden improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan. One eventually died from his injuries after fearlessly fighting to make a comeback. Another soldier was terribly hurt in a vehicle crash in that same war zone. One suffered a life-threatening deep vein thrombosis in a tank in Iraq. Yet another experienced the unthinkable: He was shot by a fellow U.S. soldier in their barracks. Many also suffered from traumatic brain injury. Their Mighty Moms dropped everything, including careers and family responsibilities, to be with and care for their sons and daughter during long stretches of recuperation time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and elsewhere.
Somehow or other, I was seated at the Blue Star Mothers’ table. When I joined the friendly circle, I learned that Blue Star Mothers are women whose children are serving active duty in the U.S. military. Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., is a non-profit veterans service organization that supports the families of those serving in the U.S. armed forces, service members themselves, veterans, and families of fallen heroes.
Middletown Township’s Marian Moran, a lively presence wearing patriotic colors, serves as president of the Blue Star Mothers Philadelphia chapter. Her son, Kevin, served as a U.S. Navy helicopter pilot during his active duty days with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 in Coronado, California, and elsewhere. Before Marian’s involvement in the Blue Star Mothers, she was a school nurse for the Rose Tree Media School District.
“I retired fearing I would not be able to see my son before a deployment [to the Western Pacific],” Marian said. Today, Lt. Cmdr. Moran works as a U.S. Navy Reserve public affairs officer.
Marian counts approximately 48 registered Blue Star mothers in the Philadelphia area. SHe sends mass emails to some 300 people. “As the war changes, so does our membership,” Marian noted. Members meet locally once a month, often for lunch, so that they might share concerns that only another mother whose son or daughter is a target for our nation’s enemies can comprehend.
Blue Star moms also conduct prayer services, send care packages to soldiers and chip in to pay the way for soldiers to attend special events like the Union League celebration.
Blue Star Mothers was a life saver for Liz, who opted against using her family name or giving the names of her two sons who are now active duty (one in the Air Force and one in the Army) as a security precaution. A rude awakening in her Philadelphia suburban grocery store right before the holidays two years ago brought Liz to the group.
While checking the grocery list for family members’ favorite items, she said, “I looked down at my basket and realized that I had nothing there for my son, who was then in a combat zone. I completely lost it. I had to leave my basket and the store.”
Liz, a nurse by profession, spent the next 20 minutes in her parked car crying uncontrollably and asking God to protect her son. “I’m not a person who has breakdowns,” said Liz. “I have to be strong for others. My husband and other children need me.”
She added, “I wanted to honor my son and his service.” So, Liz pulled herself together and went back into the store.
That episode led Liz to the Internet in search of “support groups for military moms.” She has been an active Blue Star mom ever since. Hopefully, Liz and other military mothers and families will find serenity in their mutual support system when duty, honor and love of country dictate that their children won’t be home for Christmas. May the Lord bless and keep their sons and daughters — our soldiers — safe.
As for the rest of us, may we “never forget,” as we declared after 9-11, that we not only have deadly enemies, but we have heroes among us who make staggering sacrifices on our behalf.