Ten years after the U.S. went to war in Iraq, support for military families in Myrtle Beach is stronger than ever.
Support grew over the years as organizations such as the Blue Star Mothers sprouted a local branch about five years into the war.
Anne Parker helped start the Grand Strand Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers in 2008. Now, that chapter, which is centered on the north strand, is one of three in the area. There’s also one in Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island.
For Carol Dion, a member of the Myrtle Beach chapter, the support of the mothers has been a great help.
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Her daughter Melissa was twice deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2006, before the Blue Star Mothers local presence.
“Her first two deployments, I didn’t have anybody,” she said.
It was especially difficult for Carol Dion because she cared for her grandson Ryan during the deployments.
“I wasn’t able to be emotional,” she said. “It was a lot more difficult. We had to be worried grandparents, but stable grandparents for Ryan’s sake.”
Ryan is 13 now and will be returning to live with his grandparents this June. His mother has orders to go to Korea for the second time.
“They [the mothers] were a great support when she was gone to Korea for a year,” Carol Dion said. “My grandson all of a sudden had 30 grandmothers. They came to all of his basketball games, his baseball games. They came to school when he had an award. He had a birthday party where he had Blue Star Mothers and fathers, no kids.”
“They’ll be a great help for me. They’ve already been a great help for me.”
Finding support isn’t difficult for Carol Dion now, even though Myrtle Beach may not be considered a military town.
“It’s hard to believe how many mothers and grandmothers there are that have children in the military here,” she said. “They may not be deployed, but there’s a lot of military contact in the area.”
The veterans in the area may help create a strong military community, Parker said.
“We have one of the largest veteran populations of probably any county around here,” she said. “I think we have great veteran support and military support in this community. I’ve had more veterans tell me they are so appreciative because it reminds them of the support they didn’t have.”
The amount of support keeps growing.
“So many things have sprouted up,” she said. “The Veteran’s Café, the Vet Center on Grissom Parkway, the Welcome Home and Resource Center in Little River … The support here has grown since I became involved in 2008. It’s overwhelming. There’s no reason why any parent or grandparent, even sisters or brothers, have to go through a deployment alone in this area.”