Jude and Kristine Recendez had always wanted to have a traditional wedding, but after Jude lost both of his legs in October 2006 in Iraq, they couldn’t. Instead, they had to use their money to move Jude closer to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center so he could focus on his rehabilitation. The wedding was put on hold and all energy was spent on his recovery. After an extensive amount of rehab at Walter Reed, Jude eventually married his sweetheart in front of a justice of the peace in 2009. Then, in April 2010, the couple learned they would be receiving a new house from Homes for Our Troops in Fredericksburg. About 12 of the Blue Star Mothers worked furiously to prepare the home and to help Homes for Our Troops volunteers during the Build Brigade, which took place on April 15. But this particular project was going to be much more than just helping build a home. When Kristine Recendez had mentioned to Kearney weeks earlier that they had never had a wedding, Kearney started organizing a vows renewal and a wedding reception for Kristine and Jude, which took place when they received their home on June 11. Jude was in on the surprise for Kristine.

Met by camera flashes in the master bedroom, Jude proposed on his prosthetic knee, and after a flurry of activity, Kristine and Jude renewed their vows on the lawn of their new home and finally had their dream wedding, organized by the Blue Star Mothers.

“There’s so much giving spirit in our country that you kind of walk away with a lump in your throat,” says Kearney. “Maybe that’s what fuels us as Blue Star Mothers, because it could be any one of our sons that could come back as an amputee.”

driven by that giving spirit, Alice Lang and the Tri-County Blue Star Mothers stand over a table, filling those red-and-white stockings, which will soon reach the other side of the globe and land in the arms of soldiers serving this nation.

But as soon as Christmas ends, this group of Blue Star Mothers is looking forward to what comes next — whether it’s sending soldiers Girl Scout Cookies, Valentine’s Day candy or patriotic cards; cooking dinners for local veterans’ homeless shelters; making quilts to send to soldiers; or finding homes for deployed soldiers’ pets.

Whatever the task at hand, rest assured that there are more than 11,000 mothers nationwide diligently serving our country, soldiers, veterans and families alike. Just look for the flag with the blue star and know that the Blue Star Mothers are watching over our military sons and daughters.

Christiana Nielson, a former American Way intern, is a senior at the University of Missouri, where she’s majoring­ in magazine journalism and international studies. A contributing writer for Vox Magazine, she spent last spring studying in London, where her love for writing, traveling and exploring new cultures grew exponentially.