Across the nation, 11,000 Blue Star Mothers make sure our military men and women are taken care of in the way only a mother can.Shiny red-and-white, candy-cane-stripe Christmas stockings lie on a table in the garage. A woman picks one up and begins to fill it with candy bars, puzzle books, socks, ornaments, travel-size toiletries and packets of hot chocolate. As she methodically stuffs each one, what had just been hollow stockings moments earlier are now bulging gift bags, waiting to be opened by eager recipients. However, these treat-filled Christmas stockings will not see the gleeful faces of children on Christmas morning. Instead, the stockings, prepared by a collective of military moms who affectionately call themselves the Blue Star Mothers (BSM), will be opened by our military service members.
Want to become a Blue StarMother or get involved with the organization? For more details and to locate a chapter near you, visitwww.bluestarmothers.org oremail firstname.lastname@example.org
BSM is an organization made up of mothers whose children are serving or have served in the military. And this particular garage assembly line of Christmas stockings is part of South Carolina’s Tri-County Blue Star Mothers & Families’ Operation Christmas Stocking, an annual event that began in July 2004. Every fall, these Blue Star Mothers send as many as 100 large boxes containing upward of 1,500 stockings to all the overseas military branches. Sent around Thanksgiving to ensure a Christmas delivery, the stockings are destined for faraway military outposts like Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and Guam.
“We started asking family, friends and church groups for donations,” Tri-County treasurer Alice Lang explains. “People say, ‘Oh, I want to do that, too,’ and it snowballed. They get so excited that they buy too much.”
Lang, whose son was scheduled to start his fourth tour with U.S. Army Special Forces this month (he’ll be deployed to Afghanistan), says that the goodies in the stockings range from baby wipes to mouthwash, Gatorade, coffee, toothpaste and cotton swabs — because “sand gets into places you wouldn’t believe.” Ultimately, though, Operation Christmas Stocking is only one of a variety of year-round projects, and the South Carolina group of Blue Star Mothers is just one of the more than 220 chapters of an 11,000-member national organization spread across 43 states.