Sunday, August 05, 2007

"Blue Star Mothers National convention comes to Albuquerque. "

Hiltrud Ridenour spent the first months of her grandson's deployment to Iraq glued to the 24-hour news channels.
When her son deployed, Linda Jewell would wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock and calculate the time in Baghdad.
"You just have all this nervous energy running around in you like a cyclone," Jewell says.
Both women found a measure of relief in Blue Star Mothers of America, a group best known for mailing mountains of care packages to troops overseas.
"I'd start talking to other moms and find they were doing the same things I was," Jewell says. "And it gives you a positive outlet."
Plenty of other mothers with similar stories are arriving in Albuquerque this week for the Blue Star Mothers of America annual conference, which started on Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 5.
About 130 mothers from 20 states are expected to attend, said Jewell, who acts as "Media Chairmom" for the Rio Grande chapter of Blue Star Mothers. The Rio Grande chapter has about 100 members, she said.
Other chapters have sprung up in Farmington, Chama and Rio Rancho.
Karen Stevens, the group's national president, lives in Farmington.
Founded during World War II, Blue Star Mothers now has more than 160 chapters across the country. Mothers of children serving in the military are eligible to join and often display flags with a blue star for each child in the service.
Ridenour said she learned of Blue Star Mothers from a TV spot during one of her news-watching marathons while her grandson Robby, then 18, was deployed with the Army. He has since returned to the United States.
Besides work on fund-raising, care packages, and arts and crafts, Ridenour dedicated herself to personally welcoming home as many returning troops as she could. She estimates she's made about 125 trips to the Albuquerque International Sunport.
The trip she had most looked forward to was to welcome home Joel Dahl, a 21-year-old neighbor who'd lived with her and her husband through his teenage years, and whom she calls her grandson.
Army Cpl. Dahl was killed in Iraq on June 23, days before he was to come home for the birth of his son.
"Of course, he did get his welcome home," Ridenour said. "Just not the one we wanted."
Grief, or at least the possibility of it, is a continual strand running through the group's work. One of the seminars scheduled at this week's conference is on the relatively new Wounded Warrior program, which gives families a checklist of things they can do to be prepared for bad news.
Many families don't have active passports needed to travel to military bases in Europe, where wounded troops are often taken. The State Department can issue passports in a matter of hours, but that requires a trip to Washington, said Jan Downs, Wounded Warrior program chairwoman.
"That wastes your most precious commodity," Downs said. "Time."
More...Blue Star Mothers News : Albuquerque Tribune:

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