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Blue Star Mothers, Offering Support


Every parent with a child serving in the military in Iraq probably knows this feeling. You glance at a headline and see something about American casualties. Your chest tightens, you have to remind yourself to breathe. There's a support group for these families. It's called Blue Star Mothers; it's now in its seventh decade serving the families of active-duty servicemen and women. Blue Star Mothers traditionally place a banner with a blue star in the windows of their home, a star representing each child on active duty. Penny Forth is a Blue Star Mother and a pediatric nurse in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her son, Aaron(ph), is in Baghdad serving a second tour with the Army's 169th Support Command. We spoke earlier.

Penny Forth, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Ms. PENNY FORTH (Blue Star Mother): Hello. Thank you.

CHADWICK: Remind us how long a tour is in Iraq? Is it a year?

Ms. FORTH: His tour at this time is a year to a year and a half. He was there five months the first time he was there.

CHADWICK: Boy. How long was he home in between tours?

Ms. FORTH: A year and a half.


Ms. FORTH: Yeah.

CHADWICK: How long ago did he go back?

Ms. FORTH: In January. He left January 5th.

CHADWICK: Well, what is it like day to day?

Ms. FORTH: Just get by day to day, wait for the phone call or the e-mail that you might get or a letter and just try and get through your daily routine the best you can.

CHADWICK: And how often are you able to hear from him?

Ms. FORTH: His wife or myself will hear from him usually at least once to twice a week.

CHADWICK: How did this organization come into being, Blue Star Mothers?

Ms. FORTH: Well, Blue Star Mothers started up as an idea from a captain, an Army captain, George H. Maines. And he ran an article in the newspaper in Flint, Michigan, and requested information about children serving in the armed forces. And just shortly after that, about 1,000 mothers responded to that. Six hundred members organized the Blue Star Mothers of America on March 8th of 1942.

CHADWICK: Do you meet with other Blue Star Mothers? And the name of the group is Blue Star Mothers, but I guess it's not just mothers; it's other people.

Ms. FORTH: It's mothers, fathers and family and friends.

CHADWICK: And what do you all do?

Ms. FORTH: We also meet in Tulsa every Saturday to what we call freedom boxes. We send supplies to the troops--toiletry items and snack and food items, Frisbees, basketballs, footballs, whatever we get donated to us.

CHADWICK: Are you ever able to turn off the news, to stop reading the newspapers, to stop paying attention to the radio and television, to take a break?

Ms. FORTH: This deployment, yes; last deployment, no. The first time he went, I was glued to the set and the newspapers and the magazines.

CHADWICK: I don't know whether you would consider it a good thing or a bad thing that you would need an organization like Blue Star Mothers. I guess you prefer to have your son home, but at least you have a group of families that can be together.

Ms. FORTH: Correct. Of course, we would rather everybody be home and we can forget about the freedom boxes and concentrate on the veterans and supporting each other and supporting the soldiers here at home instead. But as long as we have soldiers overseas and in harm's way, we want to be there for them and, when they come home, give them a hero's welcome that they deserve.

CHADWICK: Penny Forth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a Blue Star Mother. Her son, Aaron, is serving with the US Army in Baghdad.

Penny, thank you.

Ms. FORTH: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.