By EMILIE THIESSEN
Sending just one care package to one soldier over- seas takes a lot of time and effort, said Blue Star Mothers local chapter President Deb Feldewerd. Sending nearly 200 packages full of gifts and goodies is an entirely different thing, she said, but as the mother of four soldiers, it is all worth it.
“Putting that smile on a soldier’s face, even just for five seconds, it is a break from what their daily life is like over there,” Feldewerd said. “Whatever we can do, we try to do.”
On Tuesday, the Blue Star Mothers packed nearly 100 boxes full of donated items like baked goods, Christmas lights, coffee mix and stationary supplies, all to be sent out to deployed soldiers, some of whom are the sons or daughters of the members.
“The soldiers say they like the homemade stuff the best,” said Sauk Centre resident Linda Westbrock. Westbrock has two children in the military, one of whom, Andy, is deployed to Kuwait.
The women were also busy coordinating customs orders, checking addresses and applying postage to 90 additional boxes packaged by local AmericInns.
“For the last few weeks, we have been super busy,” Feldewerd said on Tuesday. “It is more work than a lot of people think.” Feldewerd, a Melrose resident, has four of eight children enlisted in the military.
Feldewerd said their local chapter coordinates many fundraising events, hosts casino nights for local veterans, and maintains the parade float that honors all fallen soldiers since 9/11. Sending care packages remains as one of the more important undertakings, however.
“We have to support our kids,” said Sauk Centre resident Irene Henry while packing boxes on Tuesday. Henry’s son is currently deployed to Kuwait. “It is important to send them care packages and give them all the attention they need because they are giving up a lot. They are giving up their time and sometimes their life.”
Many packages are sent to soldiers who do not have family or friends back home or who just don’t receive many packages. A priority of the Blue Star Mothers is to make sure all soldiers get something when they are deployed.
“Our son is pretty lucky that his family supports him, but it is hard for guys that don’t get anything,” said Osakis resident Anne Wiener. Wiener’s son, Eric, is a full-time marine and recently completed an eight-month tour on the USS Ronald Reagan. Wiener said sending Christmas decorations can be a huge morale booster for the soldiers as the holiday season is a time when many soldiers get homesick.
Member Janet Minette was busy checking boxes Tuesday to make sure everything was where it should be. A Sauk Centre resident, Minette has one son, Chad, deployed to Kuwait.
“I will do anything I can to support our soldiers,” she said. “What they do for us, this is the least we can do for them.”
Helping the soldiers is very healing for the mothers too, Minette said. The group allows a safe place for families to network and discuss emotions that accompany deployment.
Marion Ruegemer, of Villard, supports her son Nicolas, who is a member of the Minnesota National Guard. Ruegemer said being a part of the group was a huge blessing during her son’s first tour.
“Blue Star Mothers is very good for support,” she said. “When Nick got deployed that first time, I just didn’t know (what to expect), but when you join a group like this, you have that support of all these other moms.”
Sauk Centre resident Sherry Olson’s son, Jozy, is on his second overseas deployment. Now on a one-year tour in Kuwait, Olson said his 22-month tour in Iraq was much more difficult to deal with. Being a Blue Star Mother made all the difference, however.
“You have a lot of fear and anxiety,” she said. “It was good to have the other ladies because they know exactly how you feel and they have been through it before. Other people just don’t understand how it feels. Having people who have been through the experience to help you through it is essential.”
For more information on becoming a Blue Star Mother in Stearns County, contact Deb Feldewerd at [email protected], call (320) 256-2683 or visit www.mnbluestarmothers.org. To join, members must be a parent or grandparent with at least one child or grandchild in the military. All branches of the military are accepted.