• Image about Blue Star Mothers for the military
The Blue Star Mothers’ Chapter 6 in Long Island, N.Y., packs boxes at an event last month.
Dustin Cohen

In theory, Blue Star Mothers is a nonprofit that was officially chartered by Congress in June 1960. But in reality, it first began in 1942, during World War II, when a Flint, Mich., newspaper called the ­News-Advertiser­ ran an article asking any military mothers interested in forming or joining an organization to help their children fighting in the war to fill out an accompanying form and return it to the newspaper’s office.

After receiving hundreds of responses, Capt. George H. Maines, a Flint newspaperman, led 300 mothers to form a permanent organization that would provide care packages for military members overseas, as well as support on the homefront by volunteering at hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and providing welfare work. During the Korean War, membership escalated to 10,000, and after declining to 300 members in the 1990s, membership has risen again, this time to 11,000 mothers, according to Wendy Hoffman, the organization’s former national president. BSM’s three-tiered motives are to support the military and veterans, promote patriotism and assist in volunteer efforts.

Now You Know: The Blue Star Flag adopted by the Blue Star Mothers was ­designed and patented by WWI Army Captain Robert L. Queisser, who had two sons serving on the front line.

During times of war, BSM members (through a home or an organization) with an active-duty service member display a service banner, or Blue Star flag, in a window. The white flag with a red border and blue star or stars in the center is authorized by the Department of Defense. Each blue star represents an active-duty service member, and a slightly smaller gold star is placed over a blue star if a service member is killed in combat or while on active duty.

“We’re much more than just a support group — we are a service organization,” ­Hoffman says.
Also chapter president of Grand Valley Blue Star Mothers in Grand Junction, Colo., Hoffman says that thanks to the Internet — and to Facebook in particular — the organization is growing by about 10 members each day, with more and more mothers becoming involved. A fitting example is the 2011 National Convention, which took place last August in Washington, D.C. The 69th annual convention drew just under 300 delegates and guests, an increase from 225 the previous year. Many of the Blue Star Mothers, though, are involved with military efforts beyond BSM.

Tracie Ciambotti, a Blue Star Mother in Denver, is the co-founder of Military Families Ministry and a contributing writer for a military-focused blog called Off the Base. Ciambotti joined Blue Star Mothers in April because her son enlisted in the Army two days after he graduated high school, in June 2005. “What better opportunity than to train churches to give them an awareness that there are military families all around them,” she says, mentioning that Military Families Ministry has branches in State College, Pa.; Bennett, Colo.; and Millersburg, Pa.
And in Fredericksburg, Va., an entire Blue Star Mothers chapter is helping Homes for Our Troops build specially adapted homes for veterans who were injured in combat. The Virginia-based Blue Star Mothers have participated in several home builds, but for Nancy Kearney, chaplain for the chapter, the project that stands out the most is the Homes for Our Troops’ 101st build, which took place this past summer.