In the lobby level meeting room of Atlanta’s Mirant Corporation, for a few hours once every month, some women gather to discuss their lives. They bring coffee and soda, small pin wheel sandwiches and trays of snacks. They struggle to carry supplies for whichever activity they have taken on that month. This month it was filling plastic Easter eggs for our troops overseas.
But before the activity began, they sat down and spoke about what it is like to be who they are. They are special women; part of a special group of being common only among their own, and with a long heritage of sacrifice and courage beyond the pale of the normal civilian population. They are military mothers of the Atlanta Blue Star Mothers of America Organization, and they have something to say.
They want people to understand what they have given and are allowing their children to give so that others may sleep safely in a secure nation. They tell their stories with teary eyes unwilling to completely release due to habit of strength. But that strength gets tested, they say – and the tears do come.
While one member, Cindy Brown, a former Army service member and co-founder of the Atlanta BSMA group, can trace her proud lineage all the way back to the revolutionary war, many women in this group have never had any military contact at all.
They were new to the many burdens of being a military family in a time of great stress, and when their children came to them – certain and unmoving – to tell them they had “joined”, as member Cindy Visser confessed, she was “hysterical”. Boosted by her friends, she gathered herself and joined a journey that she had never seen coming. They all did.
Through the entire meeting, each spoke with tears brimming just along the rims of their eyes as if at any moment they could break. This is with them always, they say. Washing dishes, sitting in traffic, smiling at office parties and laughing with friends. Just below the surface of the smiles and warm social graces, these women struggle with an incomparable and constant reality that their child is in harm’s way.
The most basic of all instincts, to protect one’s child is ever present yet held down by sheer will and strength of character. And no one but another woman in this same situation, they tell me, can relate. “They don’t mean it. “ One member added, speaking of some civilian comments, “But the things they said were so inappropriate. They just can’t understand. That’s why I came here.”
Many other military families agree. In a March 2009 survey given by the Blue Star Families organization, military families were given the chance to address the following statement: “The general public does not understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by service members and their families.”
A whopping 94% of respondents agreed. Michelle Obama mentioned this survey in an interview with Samantha Quigley of the Armed Forces Press Service, stating, “I just saw the results of a recent survey done by Blue Star Families that shows that 94 percent of military families feel as if the country doesn’t understand their challenges,” Obama said. “That’s a pretty powerful statement.” But not all powerful statements come from the written word.
Sitting quietly, dressed in a bright red sweater with sun glasses tucking her hair neatly behind her ears, Tawnda Holley’s eyes told a story. Mother to a Marine son currently deployed to Afghanistan, Tawnda spoke softly and quietly of how proud she is of her son and of the choice he made. Not with tears flowing, but graciously poised as if she could not allow one to go for fear the rest would not stop. Tawnda’s eyes relayed the graceful strength and quiet will of all military mothers. A mix of bitter-sweet emotions anchored behind a remarkable pride.
President of the BSMA’s Metro-Atlanta chapter, Cindy Wiley, understands. Cindy, along with BSM Cindy Brown, the group’s secretary, and Cathy Schulte, treasurer, all have children serving. It is for these members and guests – which on this day included Cathy, a visiting Air Force mother, and former military wife Hillary Goldizen who, with her young daughter, donated candy and supplies for the Easter shipment – that this group was formed.
While each mother had her own story to tell, all of them shared the same undeniable sense of pride in their child. Military mothers send their children to serve the public in its most desperate of times and all that they ask in return is that it is appreciated and understood. Comments like, “How could you let them go?” or “I’d never allow my child to do that”, are often conveyed by those who choose to see only one side of a picture at which they stare with too broad an eye.
It’s in the details of this larger picture – which no one else sees – where these women must live. Painted with loving memories of skinned knees and chicken pox; first dates and broken hearts; lost dogs and nightmares, they raised their children by giving more to them than they would ask in return. And then, as their children grew into military members, they took with them this same sense of selfless devotion which they pass on to thousands whose names they may not know and whose faces they may not see yet whose lives they volunteer to protect simply because their country asks.
Harbored within the details of the lives their children chose, they gain a thorough and steadfast insight into the truest meaning of motherhood from all its winding angles. Hopes and dreams, wishes and prayers, some answered… some not. This is what it’s like to be a military mother. There is no pride or effort of emotion that can compare to that of being a military parent. Within the lives our children lead, from the journeys they ask us to understand, bitter and sweet… we are fed both.
To all of our Atlanta Georgia BSMA’s whose flags NEVER fall, a heartfelt… “Thank you”!
Margaret Aikens has spent her life in the military presence. The daughter of an officer, wife to a retired Marine and mother to three military sons, her experiences span the broad spectrum of military life. As a freelance copy and technical writer, she saw a need to touch upon the very important stories of our Atlanta area military families. She has taken classes in journalism from Poynters and is attending classes in journalism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this year.
Meeting and donation information for the Chapter 1/ Metro Atlanta BSMA Organization:
Time: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Date: Every 4’Th Saturday of every month
Location: Mirant Corporation, 1155 Perimeter Center West, Atlanta Georgia 30338
Email: [email protected]/ www.bluestarmothersga.webs.com
Meeting and donation information for Chapter 2 of the BSMA organization in Warner Robins:
Time: 7:30 P.M.
Date: 1’St Sunday night of each month
Location: Coldwell Banker SSK realtor- 470 Houston Lake Rd. Warner Robins, Ga.
Email: [email protected]
Send a “HUG” to a military member!
Contact Cathy Schulte of the N.E Atlanta huggers @ 770-923-0389
Email: [email protected]
Visit: www.thehugsproject.com to find out how!