CINDY KRUGER: JUNE 2015
Thank you for the faith and trust that you have shown to each of us on the national board by electing us to these positions for the coming year. We promise to do our utmost to keep the mission of service first as we lead our beloved organization through it’s 88th year.
Thirty some years ago, as a young Army wife who married into a military family, family gatherings were a time to listen and learn. It’s a post, not a base, groceries are purchased at the commissary, business trips are called TDY, pay stubs are LES’s, and the list went on and on. My father-in-law served in Vietnam, so naturally, the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982 and the interment of the Vietnam Unknown in 1984 were occasions for the family to gather round the television. On one of those occasions, we were home on leave, and watching with the family when the camera swung round for a view of the crowd. There, sitting together, all in white, was a group of ladies. Those around me all said softly, “Bless them all” and words like that. I didn’t know who they were, so I asked, “Who are they?” Someone said, reverently, “They are the Gold Star Mothers.” “What does that mean?” I asked.
And they told me. How my heart broke for these moms and their loss. I could not imagine their pain. And I never forgot them – sitting there in white, so strong in spite of their loss. Knowledge of the Gold Star Mothers proved to be the most valuable bit of military knowledge that I ever learned.
Eight years ago, I sat in the midnight darkness; almost 12 hours had passed since I had received notification that Mike had died. I was numb and shattered. I can’t do this, I can’t do this…. that sentence kept going through my mind. How can I do this? And then, I remembered them, the Gold Star Mothers, they knew… if I could just find them. Frantically I searched through the ether of the Internet until I found them – until I found you. Finding them, finding you, was the beginning of my journey out of the dark - out of the blackness of grief. I knew nothing more about you than the small bit of hope …you knew.
In the first three months after losing Mike, I was overwhelmed with an outpouring of support from my community and from citizens all over the country. Everyday, I received packages and cards of condolence. There were so many ceremonies held to honor Mike. I remember thinking how fortunate that the country was supportive, and how much harder this would be without the support.
It took three months to find the membership application for AGSM that I laid on my desk on September 10, 2007. It was buried under all those supportive cards and letters. I filled it out and sent it in. I eventually met some of those moms who made such an impression on me 30 years ago, and now they are my friends. These moms didn’t have the support of the country in their grief. They didn’t get the cards, the packages, the ceremonies honoring their sons and daughters. Yet they have been strong on this journey. Now that I know them, I have begun to understand how they have gained such strength. They have grown strong because they have thousands of hours of service in our VA hospitals, they have traveled the length and breadth of this country honoring our veterans and remembering our fallen, they have raised money, given blood, written letters, and they have done so much that cannot be categorized. It was this service that helped to heal them, not the support of their community or their country.
These moms have lighted the way in their white suits, capes, hats, and gloves. They have shown us a dedication to the mission of American Gold Star Mothers – the mission of service. God bless you all. You are such an inspiration.
I would guess that most of the moms in our membership were “that mom” – you know the one – the mom who fed extra mouths, who welcomed extra people for the holidays, who sent extra in the care packages, and who still brings extra flowers to the cemetery- “that mom” who was mom not just to your own children, but to their friends. That very basic instinct in all of you is the starting point of service. We can no longer do those things for our sons and daughters, but we can still do those things for their buddies – and we do. That service is the heart of our mission as American Gold Star Mothers. In reaching out to our veterans and service members, we feel closer to our kids.
I remember talking with Terry Davis and Bette Freeman, both past national presidents and Vietnam Era moms, on my first trip to a national event in D.C. I asked them, “How do you do this? When I think that I won’t see my son for the next 40 years, the pain is so devastating. How do you do this?” Terry said, “Oh, it’s not like that at all…with every year that passes, you grow closer to them until that day when you are reunited.” Bette nodded in agreement and added, “Yes, it is just that way.” And I held onto those words…and those ladies have proven to be right. This service does bring you closer to your lost child. With every “welcome home,” every hug, every visit to the VA, we are a little closer to our child.
Keeping in mind the healing nature of our mission of service, I want to challenge each you to keep the mission first…the mission that heals you, the mission of service. I challenge you all to address these goals of service in your departments.
1. To support the Education Center at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial through fundraising efforts at your local level. Five years ago, AGSM contributed over $80,000 to build a Fisher House in Dover, Delaware. We can do it again. I challenge you to make this project your chapter and department cause. If each member of our organization raised just $100, we could give this worthy project almost $150,000 at next year’s convention.
2. Plan an event in your area to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. We have provided the contact information that you need to make this happen for the Vietnam veterans and their families in your area. Please see information in this issue on how to organize an event.
3. Reach out to a veteran. You will find that when you reach out, they reach back. We, the moms and the veterans, have been helping each other heal since 1928 through this mission of service. Please keep this thought in mind as you plan this next year with your chapters and departments, particularly when the going gets tough. It is not about personalities, it is about the mission! The mission is service. Keep the mission first!