Blue Star shines for military Local group supports families, soldiers



Article Published: Nov. 5, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Blue Star shines for military Local group supports families, soldiers


One new military support organization is expanding its role while another is trying to form with Veterans Day approaching on Nov. 11.

A High Country chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America is the goal of a group of local mothers who have family members in active military duty overseas.

Debbie Branch, who is chairing a Nov. 8 meeting and helping spearhead the charter effort, said the organization is both a support and an education group, sharing information while also providing contact and family connections with those serving overseas.

Mothers of military sons or daughters serving in any branch of service who live in Watauga, Ashe or Avery county are invited to attend Sunday's meeting at 2 p.m at the National Guard Armory in Boone. The armory is located at 274 Hunting Hills Lane, next to the Watauga County Parks and Recreation Complex.

"We've been trying to get a group together for a while and then came across this organization," Branch said of the Blue Star Mothers of America. The name came from the World War II era practice of families placing a blue star in the window of their home to show they had a family member in the military.

If the soldier was injured, the blue star was replaced with a silver star, and if the soldier was killed in action, then the window bore a gold star.

Over the years, the organization experienced rises and falls in membership, with a peak of 30,000 during World War II. Currently, there are about 1,500 members nationwide. Branch believes there is more than enough interest in the area to find at least the five mothers required for a charter chapter.

"I probably know at least 10," Branch said. "I'm preparing for 50 people to be there. To be a charter member, you are required to have a child serving or having returned from overseas active duty."

Branch is familiar with life in military families. Her father and father-in-law both served in the military, and she's married to a retired lieutenant colonel. Her son is stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga., and has completed three tours of duty overseas, two in Iraq and once in Afghanistan.

The organization organizes activities to support both the families and those serving in the military. Those activities are determined by each group, and include mailing cards, letters and packages to area service men and women, as well as being a support group for mothers who have sons or daughters in the military.

The local group was inspired when one of the organizers met a woman whose son was about to ship out overseas. Several local mothers got to know her and shared information about getting on base to see her son's graduation and reassuring her that he was properly trained to fight overseas.

"It was just an opportunity to show someone else else that you don't have to fear the unknown," Branch said.

"We're proud of what they (soldiers) are doing, and we know there's a need out there."

Anyone interested in learning more about the Blue Star chapter can call Branch at (828) 264-1840 or e-mail the following: (branchfamily@earthlink.net)

While the Blue Star Mothers are gearing up, the local branch of the Marine Corps League is preparing for a major event, while also focusing on recruitment.

The Marine Corps League is a national service organization formed in 1923. Its mission statement is: "Members of the Marine Corps League join together in camaraderie and fellowship for the purpose of preserving the traditions and promoting the interests of the United States Marine Corps, banding together those who are now serving in the United States Marine Corps and those who have been honorably discharged from that service that they may effectively promote the ideals of American freedom and democracy, voluntarily aiding and rendering assistance to all Marines, FMF corpsmen and former Marines and FMF corpsmen and to their widows and orphans; and to perpetuate the history of the United States Marine Corps and by fitting acts to observe the anniversaries of historical occasions of particular interest to Marines."

Dennis Ray is commandant of the local branch, which represents the High Country area of Ashe, Watauga and Avery counties. It currently has 22 members, and Ray said many more people are eligible and invited to join.

"We are the Mountaineer Detachment, and we formed up in October of last year," Ray said. "We're a service organization that tries to help local veterans."

The organization is open to former Marines, active duty Marines, or associate members who have a family member in the U.S. Marine Corps. While the focus is on Marines, it helps veterans of any military branch.

The Marine Corps League will be recruiting during a local Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. "We will be there to represent the Marine Corps League in the ceremony," Ray said.

"Everywhere we go, we try to recruit, so we'll have a table set up."

The Veterans Day event will be held in the Boone Mall on Blowing Rock Road.

The event begins at 10 a.m. with a performance by the Watauga Community Band, followed by a color guard, a guest speaker and introduction of representatives from various military organizations. A display at the event will feature the names of all the D-Day veterans from North Carolina.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the High Country Military Officers Association, Disabled American Veterans, the 1451st Transportation Company of the N.C. National Guard, the Appalachian State University ROTC program and other military support groups will be participating. The local Girl Scouts will retire old flags and properly dispose of them, with more details for the event being finalized. At 11:11 a.m., church bells will ring around the community in recognition of the service and sacrifices of veterans.

The High Country Military Officers Association is organizing the Veterans Day event, and the local chapter is also relatively new. It formed two years ago and currently has about 60 retired officers as members.

Nick Friedman heads the High Country chapter, and he said the organization is raising money for scholarships for ROTC students and funds to support families who have members in the military.

"We want people to know that we really invite families to bring their children and meet local veterans and bring their family members who are veterans," Friedman said.

"It's a great opportunity to educate young people about those who saved the country in World War II and defended the country in other wars."

For more information on the Veterans Day event, call Friedman at (828) 297-5198.

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