My sister Kathy died ten years ago. I guess you never think about losing a sibling—you expect some day to bury your parent(s), and you fear ever losing your child—but you never think about losing a sister or brother, you always just expect them to be there. At least, that was my case, when my sister of just 45 died in her sleep of congestive heart failure.
I have three sisters, but Kathy was the one I had often fought with when we were kids. Actually, I have never even had a squabble with either of my two younger sisters, but Kathy and I were closest in age and we had grown up in our own little combat zone. Years later we did settle our differences—after we became mothers—and we became very close friends, but there had been a time when our fights were monumental and loud. I think of her a lot during the spring, because that was the season when I lost her.
Last year I attended the wake of PNP Susie Huffer. At her funeral were many of the older Blue Star Mothers in Ohio whom I fondly call the “Quarter Century Moms,” those BSMs who have been members of this Organization for 25 consecutive years or more. Sitting with them in the fellowship hall after the wake, I was struck with how much they loved each other, and how they spoke so kindly to each other. I made some remark about that, and they all laughed and told me, “It wasn’t always this way.” One of the QCMs said, “We used to fight like freshmen on the cheerleading squad.” “Really?” I asked, because there was no evidence of that in this setting. She responded, “Yes, but we long ago decided that we are Sisters first, and the fighting had to go.”
Hmm, Sisters first…that really captured my attention, and to this day I have taken it as my mantra. Sometimes, when I am disagreeing with a Blue Star Mother, I try to remember that we are sisters first, and that our children (who made us Blue Star Mothers in the first place) are the reason we exist at all. I believe that somehow we may have gotten away from that mission (“to support our troops, our veterans, and the families of our fallen heroes”) and that we were working cross purpose to safeguard our own individual places in the Organization. This will be the death of BSMA, if we allow it, because we are not here to advance our individual causes, but we are here to advance a group in support of our military kids. We have to learn a lesson from our Quarter Century Moms, if we are going to go the distance: we are sisters first.
Think about your sister(s). How do you stay connected? You call, you write a note (email or snail mail cards), you even stop by to see her. The next time you are at cross purposes with one of your Blue Star Sisters, why don’t you take the time to remember the relationship that makes you her sister; think about her and pray for her; write her a card, ask about her son’s deployment; call her and talk about her daughter coming home from Japan; or stop by to visit when her grandchildren are in town (if you live close enough). Remember, we are sisters first.
As I was writing this article, I came home from work to receive a hand-written card from one of my Blue Star Sisters in another State. She, and several BSMs from her chapter, had written me the sweetest note of encouragement. And I sat on the couch and got teary-eyed. Yes, it came by snail mail, took days to get here, but when it arrived it struck me like an arrow hitting the bulls-eye on a target. I will keep it long after my term as National President is over. It was personal and it was tender, and it reinforced the very thing that had prompted me to write this note: we are sisters first. Let’s finish this year with that thought in mind.
FINAL NOTE: our Quarter-Century Sister (Mary) Mollie Tinapple( of Columbus Ohio) died last month in Florida. She had been a Blue Star Mother for more than 50 consecutive years. Good bye, Miss Mollie, and may God bless your memory as a Blue Star Mother.
A National Day of Honor
Yesterday, the President issued a proclamation regarding a National Day of Honor, recognizing the service and sacrifice of the brave men and women who fought in Iraq and their families.
As we’ve welcomed these service members home, we must continue to do our part as a Nation to ensure they have the care, benefits and opportunities they’ve earned through their service. President Obama’s enduring commitment to support our service members and their families has led to unprecedented efforts across the federal government to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform and their families.
Below are just a few of the strides we've made for veterans and military families since the beginning of this Administration:
- To better align government resources to support military families and veterans, President Obama issued Presidential Study Directive 9. This directive has resulted in the mobilization of the whole of the federal government to better support military families and veterans. DOJ and HHS are collaborating on improving Veterans Treatment Courts, the Department of Labor is organizing outreach to military spouses, and more.
- The President signed into law and has ensured successful implementation of an assistance program for caregivers of Veterans who incurred a serious injury in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001. And recent amendments to the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) expands employment protections for wounded warriors and disabled veterans.
- The First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces - a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Joining Forces was designed to energize action from every sector of our society – individuals, businesses, non-profits, philanthropy and faith-based institutions – to give service members, veterans and their families the support they have earned. We celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Joining Forces this April!
- On August 5, 2011, President Obama announced new commitments to service members and veterans that will provide a comprehensive plan to lower veteran unemployment and ensure that service members leave the military career-ready through hiring tax credits, private sector commitments, and reforms that improve the way we prepare, train, and educate service members for life after the military. The President recognizes that hiring veterans is good for a company’s bottom line. He challenged the private sector to hire 100,000 veterans– and we’re happy to report that they’ve accepted that challenge.
- On November 21, 2011 the President signed into law a comprehensive package that will aggressively attack the unacceptably high rate of veteran’s unemployment. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 will expand veterans tax credits; improve the transition assistance program (TAP); facilitate seamless transition; expand education & training; and translate military skills and training. Through executive order, the President established the Veterans Job Bank, MyNextMove and the Veterans Gold Card. You can learn more about these programs at www.whitehouse.gov/vets.
- Under the President’s leadership, the Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced that, by April 2012, the length of most unit operational deployments will go from 12 months to 9 months. The reduced deployment length will improve soldier and family quality of life while continuing to meet operational requirements and is an important step in sustaining the all-volunteer-force.
- The President signed into law the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which funds the VA’s health care budget a year in advance. This landmark legislation will assure timely, sufficient, and predictable funding from year to year. For veterans, it means improved access to the doctors, nurses, and medical care that they need.
We are proud of all of these accomplishments, but we are also well aware that much work remains to be done. The President has made it clear that this country will continue to honor its commitment to our veterans as they return home. Their families, too, deserve our respect and our support. Military families have endured challenges the likes of which many of us can only imagine, all in service of their country. You can find ways to honor their service and thank them by visiting our Get Involved site.
All the best,
Associate Director, Office of Public Engagement
Did you know I blew up a tank once? I was an MP (military police) in the Army at the time, and we were taking target practice at old weaponry downrange--a WWII tank was our target. The purpose of the exercise was to teach us that when you fire a bazooka, there is just as much "backfire" from the weapon, and you need to position yourself accordingly (so you don't get burned, and you don't torch the team behind you).
But I took the assignment seriously. I watched the woman MP in front of me take aim at the target, and then miss it entirely. Having witnessed her squinting through her sights, I decided she must have thought she had the tank in her cross-hairs, but her ammunition fell short by at least thirty meters. So I adjusted my trajectory. I aimed the bazooka much higher than the sights in the cross-hairs and I fired my weapon. The rest is history. I blew up the tank, and our target practice was over!
I share this story because I believe there are times we all must adjust our aim a bit if we are going to hit our target. It may seem completely impossible at the time, but if you watch those who have gone before you and just make a few necessary adjustments, you just might be surprised at how many times you get closer to--or reach--your goal. And remember our Blue Star Mothers' mission: to support our troops and our veterans and our Gold-Star families. Make the necessary changes--tweak your trajectory--and let's hit the target!
P.S. This picture was taken several years ago when my son graduated from Infantry training. It was good to hold an M-16 again.
"Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended." -- Pres. George W. Bush, Sep 11, 2001
Ten years ago those words from the President of the United States could barely match the horrific images we had watched throughout the morning of September 11, 2001, as nearly 3,000 American men, women and children were killed in four separate attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center (NYC), the Pentagon (Arlington) and the failed effort that ended in a farmer's field in Shanksville, PA.
We pause today to remember the fallen of 9/11: the innocent victims in the Towers and the Pentagon, as well as the helpless passengers in the four separate flights which were commandeered for a mission of death and destruction to our way of life as Americans. We also pay homage to the first responders--police and firefighters--who ran into the burning buildings to rescue and save those who had been injured, sacrificing their lives in service to their calling.
Many of our sons and daughters joined the military as a result of the actions on that fateful day, and we became "Blue Star Mothers" as a result. Their effort to defend freedom brings us to honor them, also, today. We send our thoughts and prayers of hope to the troops and veterans who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "War on Terrorism," and to those Gold-Star families whose heroes have given their lives in this conflict.
May the memory of first responders who ran into the danger inspire you to face your own challenges with grace and courage. May the "indescribable scenes of death and destruction" you review today bring you a renewed sense of patriotism and support of our country and its leaders. And may your own sons and daughters (and our veterans) be honored for their selfless service to advance the cause of liberty and freedom, both here and abroad. They have defended freedom, and will continue to do so, because they know first-hand that "Freedom is not Free."
Robin Barnes McCarthy
Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.
September 11, 2011
Greetings from O-H-I-O, where we are “Old and Young, BSM STRONG!” And welcome to the President’s Page of the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.
As you read in the email from Past National President (PNP) Wendy Hoffman, we have just completed our 69th Annual National Convention in Washington, D.C. Held in our Nation’s Capital, the Convention afforded the Delegates and Associates an opportunity to visit our country’s stunning monuments, tour historic buildings and even participate in the BSMA Annual Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
We also elected new Officers to our National Executive Board (NEB), who are as follows:
¨ President, Robin (Barnes) McCarthy (OH)
¨ 1st Vice President, Janet Broussard (LA)
¨ 2nd Vice President, Lin McGee (CT)
¨ 3rd Vice President, Teresa Bullock (CA)
¨ 4th Vice President, Pattie Kelley (MN)
¨ Recording Secretary, Charilyn Damigo (CA)
¨ Treasurer, Julie Roberts (NM)
¨ Financial Secretary, Anne Parker (SC)
Your newly elected Board is diverse and experienced, and we will do our best to fulfill our BSMA mission “to support our troops and veterans.” Our Board includes both brand-new and returning NEB Members, two Past Department Presidents, two ordained Ministers, three Veterans, and we will work with PNPs Wendy Hoffman (CO), Karen Stevens (CO), and Susan Naill (FL) to transact the business of BSMA.
Presently I am in the process of making the additional Appointments to the NEB, as well as deciding Chairs to the various Committees. In the future I hope to post the Agenda to our NEB meetings on the BSMA website, so you can have input into the topics we will be discussing. You are welcome to reach me now at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am honored to serve as your new President, humbled by your vote of confidence, and wholly amazed at the task before us. God bless you all.
DRIVING THE BLUE-HAIRED DAISIES
I want to apologize to anyone in BSMA who may have been offended by my choice to go to NYC on Veterans Day, instead of attending the traditional ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. BSMA was well represented there, with Janet Broussard (National 1VP) leading the group of mothers who placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. But I called an audible. It’s a football play—when the Quarterback gets up to the line of scrimmage and sees something that he can’t fully explain to the Coach, he “calls an audible.” And everyone on the team knows that he is going to run the ball.
I called an audible. When Patrick Gualtieri from the United War Veterans Council stood before the National Convention (August 13, 2011) inviting us to join him in New York City on Veterans Day and participate in the greatest parade ever (11-11-11), it seemed too good to be true. I watched as dozens of Blue Star Mothers got excited about the prospect, especially since he promised the UWVC would pay for our travel and lodging for the Parade.
Immediately after arriving back in Dayton, I began to receive emails from Convention Moms with all their questions about our involvement. I took this charge personally and even tried to reach Patrick myself. We had a Parade Committee who worked to get specific information from the UWVC (sponsor of the Parade), but when we were not able to reach an agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) with them, the NEB chose (wisely) to back out of its endorsement of the Parade, and instead, allow chapters to participate at their own risk.
That’s where I faced a dilemma. Traditionally, the National President visits the White House and attends the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Although this would have been the highest honor of my life, I also knew that two Quarter-Century Moms (meaning they have been Members of Blue Star Mothers of America for more than 25 years) had attended the Convention and had their hearts set on going to New York City to ride on the Parade float (like they had been promised). They had also shared this “once-in-a-lifetime dream” with other QCMs in Ohio and a groundswell had begun. That’s when I decided I had to go with them to New York City.
You see, most of these Mothers are on a fixed income, and transportation and lodging would be a problem. Also, they are grandmothers and great-grandmothers, so their age could pose a potential danger for them if they went to NYC alone. I felt an obligation to them, so I called an audible and made my choice. I say this, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but my husband and I decided we were “Driving the Blue-Haired Daisies” to New York.
The date of 11-11-11 was certainly memorable for most of us, but for these Mothers it was even more special: not one of them had ever been in New York before, none had ever seen the Veterans Day Parade, and the unscheduled bus “tour” back to the Navy Lodge on Staten Island was the highlight of the day (they saw Times Square, Broadway, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero, even the Statue of Liberty).
I will close with this: it was late and we were not able to ride the Ferry to see the Statute of Liberty, but the bus driver took us to a little-known spot where we could see Lady Liberty from across the Hudson River (what is it, a mile and a half?). All the Daisies got off the bus to snap off a picture or two on their disposable (not digital) cameras. Virginia Clark, the oldest of our Daisies, came up to me with tears in her eyes and apologized for being “grumpy” after a long day. I told her that the apology was accepted, and she continued, saying “When I saw Lady Liberty up close and personal, well, that made it all worth it for me.” Me too, Virginia, me too.