Autumn is already on the mind of the Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina. The group, with more than 80 members from much of the central Myrtle Beach area, reaching into Conway and Murrells Inlet, will have a “Blue Star Family Night” 4-8 p.m. Thursday at the Bob Evans restaurant off S.C. 544, near U.S. 17 Bypass and Socastee.
Grateful for 15 percent of the food sales receipts in these four hours, this group of parents of troops in the armed forces will use the funds to help fill its “hero box” mailings to deployed personnel.
Anne Leimbach, president of this Blue Star chapter, said it has “grown by leaps and bounds” since its chartering in October 2008, and “amazing hardworking, dedicated women” and some supportive fathers, as well, keep a shared positive spirit for all of their children who serve or have served in the military.
“You might join for your kid,” said Leimbach, whose son, in Army infantry, has done tours in Afghanistan and Germany, “but you stay for everything else.”
Question | How has the community come out and supported such efforts for collections for hero boxes to make warriors smile with a little taste of home?
Answer | Bob Evans has been good to us from the beginning of this chapter. We go there once a year, and when we don’t come, they say, “When are you coming back?” ... In June, we sent 144-plus boxes overseas to deployed troops, so this is not just about our kids; it’s about everyone wearing the uniform. ...
These boxes cost $15 apiece to mail, and the U.S. Postal Service gives us a $2 break on postage. That’s why we have to have fundraisers, to fill these boxes.
Q. | What’s a sampling of items sought for hero boxes?
A. | Granola bars, toothbrushes and toothpaste ... soup, gum, candy – but not chocolate. ... In June, we had 53 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Drink mixes, small toiletries, razors, candy. We do an Easter packing; we can’t put enough Peeps in these boxes; that stuff doesn’t spoil.
Q. | How strong does the camaraderie remain among the parents?
A. | These are some of the most wonderful women I’ve had the pleasure to know. These gals, all you have to do is say “Could you? I can’t,” and you will have five people who will jump in and do it. ...
Oct. 6 at the American Legion in Murrells Inlet. we will be packing boxes. You want to get your socks knocked off, watch us pack. We’ll get 150 boxes together; we’re like ants on a hill. ... We have to go to storage ... and haul all the stuff there, and mailing addresses have to be done. ...
You get into this because of whatever reason, and stay in it because it’s the right thing to do. And you don’t stop being a Blue Star mom when your kids are out of the service; we have a number of people whose kids are veterans and they still show up.
Q. | How does the public play a special role in helping this cause by Blue Star Mother groups nationwide for which the need never ends?
A. | You never know whose heart you’re going to touch when you do these things. People want to help. When we do collections for hero boxes, in a lot of ways, it makes people feel good. They want to support the troops and they want to help in some way. ...
When we’re collecting in front of stores, they bring us a box of mac-and-cheese or a box of granola bars. A lot of them will get their kids to do it, and they’ll say “This is for the soldiers.” This instills patriotism, too.
Q. | How does having a son or daughter deployed raise your awareness and monitoring of what’s going on around the world even more? How much higher does that pique your antennae?
A. | Awareness, etc., varies from mom to mom. Some of us are plugged into the news all the time anyway; others don’t want to have it in their faces.
Deployment means different things to different people. Some members become more active when their warriors are deployed; others kind of lay low till their child comes home. When people ask me how I sleep with my son in harm’s way, I tell them it’s very much like the first time the car pulled out of the driveway and you weren’t in it, only much, much bigger. I say my prayers like always, put my head on the pillow and sleep. If there is something I need to know, I’ll hear.
Also, just because the phone rings at 2 a.m. when your child is away, it isn’t always bad news. Usually it means he got his hands on a phone and you were the voice he wanted to hear. When they are away, they have little idea of what time it is back home.