For a mother of a deployed soldier, the waiting can be so hard.
You wait anxiously for any news or phone call from your child serving in Iraq or Afghanistan but pray it won't be a military officer on the other line, informing you that your child was injured or killed in combat.
Carol Nelson understands the worry and anxiety a mother feels when her child is deployed for active duty. That's why the licensed practical nurse at Brainerd Medical Center is forming a Brainerd chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., a group that will provide support and information to area mothers with adult children serving in the military as well as support for soldiers serving abroad.
Nelson's son, Sgt. Anthony Nelson, 26, returned in May from a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, N.Y. While she doesn't worry as much about her son now that he is back on American soil, she recognizes the same fear and worry in the eyes of her co-workers at BMC who also have children serving in the military.
Tari Jo Avery, also an LPN at BMC, has a 19-year-old son, Spc. Mathew Avery, serving with the 367th Engineer Battalion in Afghanistan. She was elated when her son called her at work Thursday. She's missed five of his calls so far.
"It's the fear of the unknown," Nelson said. "Who knows when you're going to hear from your son? You're on a 24-hour anxiety trip."
Nelson estimated about 25-30 employees at BMC have been directly affected by recent deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and other military hot zones. She learned about the Blue Star Mothers of America on the Internet and joined the national organization, but felt she could help others by forming a local chapter.
The Blue Star Mothers organization began during World War II as a way for mothers to show support for their children and their country. The organization is best known for the Blue Star Banners that hang in the window of a home in which a son or daughter is on active duty. If that soldier dies during military service, the blue star is replaced with a gold star.
Nelson said the vast number of deployed troops to the Middle East since Sept. 11 has led to renewed interest in the organization.
How to join
-- Mothers who have or have had children serving in the military are invited to attend an informational meeting about the creation of a Brainerd Chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., planned for 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the American Legion in Brainerd.
-- The chapter will serve as a support group and information link for area mothers dealing with the military deployment of an adult child as well as provide support to the soldiers abroad.
-- Siblings, fathers and spouses of military personnel are welcome to come and attend as an associate member.
-- Annual dues will be $10 a year. There are no dues for associate members.
-- For more information about the meeting, contact Carol Nelson at 825-9603.
-- For more information about Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., visit its Web site at www.bluestarmothers.org.
Nelson needed five women to form a local chapter. She had to look no further than BMC to find her four other charter members.
Lynn Getty, an LPN at BMC, has a son, Sgt. Chasen Getty, serving in Iraq with the Marines. Stacy Peterson, a certified medical assistant at BMC, has a son, Lathan Peterson, 22, serving with the Air Force in California. He recently returned from Kuwait. Jan Hall, who works in the BMC transcription department, has a son, Airman T.J. Hall, who has served in Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9-11 and is now back with his unit at Fort Snelling. Hall's son-in-law, Jeremy Frank, served 10 months in Iraq.
When Avery's son was deployed to Iraq in May, she relied on Nelson for support and information about what to expect with a son on active duty.
"I feel I don't know enough about any of this," said Avery. "I don't know letters and numbers and ranks. I want to learn. If you've never had military service, you have no experience with this."
Nelson said she would like the local Blue Star Mothers to do a variety of things, from providing emotional support to other mothers and possibly raising funds to sending care packages to soldiers overseas. When her son was in Afghanistan he often asked what people back home thought of him and his fellow soldiers. Sending care packages would be one way to show there are mothers in the Brainerd lakes area who care.
"My son was very proud I wanted to do this," said Nelson of her desire to start a local chapter. "He said, 'That's awesome, mom.'"
Siblings, fathers and spouses of military personnel also can join the Blue Star Mothers as associate members, said Nelson. Mothers whose children have served in the military also can join the group.
"I'm reaching out for all military mothers, past and present," said Nelson.
Nelson said she has no idea how many mothers and other interested people will attend the 6:30 p.m. Sunday informational meeting at the American Legion in Brainerd but hopes there will be interest in the community for the new group.
JODIE TWEED, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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