Holiday packages -- 2,657 to be exact, lovingly hand-packed, one by one, with protein bars, beef jerky, snacks, toothbrushes, toiletries, letters, candy and other sundries -- were recently mailed from local "military moms" to troops deployed in Afghanistan, Kuwait and other posts worldwide.
The boxes were received. And "thank-yous" from the servicemen and women are now coming in to the senders: Blue Star Moms, East Bay Chapter 101.
"Dear Blue Star Moms,
It’s Sunday, Dec. 16 and our (unit) received mail today, which means I received, not one but TWO, BSM boxes!
Reading the letters and cards was heartwarming.
One ... asked about what animals I like, and, of course, I immediately thought of my dog, Hatchi, (picture attached). One card was from a lady named Kay ... my foster mother was named Kay ... and thinking of her was a great visit of memories to my quilted past.
What I love about receiving the boxes is that I have colleagues that
immediately wanted to help me share.
From a U.S. Army Corps engineer, Afghanistan."
"It's very touching," said Blue Star's Chris Mahoney of Danville, mom of a 20-year-old Marine lance-corporal.
"They tell us it's so nice to know they're not forgotten," she said.
The care-package undertaking is a whopping, year-round coordination of volunteers, sponsors and donated goods, coupled with efforts of the 100 or so Blue Star Moms from Danville, San Ramon, Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton, Walnut Creek and surrounds.
The moms' common bond: sons and daughters in all branches of service, either deployed active-duty or veterans.
Spun from the national Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., the local group formed immediately after 9/11 in 2001, Mahoney said.
And good works and community service aside, Mahoney says it's the comraderie of moms with kids stationed overseas that's key to the thriving local chapter, one of the largest in the country.
"You don't really understand until you have someone who's serving," she said.
These moms station themselves several times a year outside area supermarkets, handing incoming shoppers suggested "wish lists," and then gratefully accepting donated items.
Candy comes from local school kids' Halloween stashes; area dentists contribute toothpaste and brushes.
Better Homes and Gardens realtors, at 630 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville, host a donation drop-off station.
"In this area," Mahoney said, "we get a great response."
Then prior to shipping, the Blue Star Moms coordinate full-day, assembly-lines of packers, wrappers, loaders, mailers. This year's was in early December at the Elks Lodge in Walnut Creek.
"To talk with these women, they're amazing," said one Pleasanton mother, who joined the packaging drive. "They're a machine."
The individual recipients of the care packages are referred to Blue Star, often by parents and relatives, through the organization's web page.
Mahoney, Blue Star third vice-president and care-package coordinator, added: "Most people realize that the freedom we have is because of people serving."
And beside the point is whether public -- or even the moms' -- sentiments are for or against a war, elected politicians or current administrations. The focus, Mahoney said, is those serving on the front lines.
"We support the troops, and the veterans, and the wounded," she said.
And Mahoney and other Blue Star Moms are always moved by thank-you notes and emails:
"I'm a soldier in the U.S. Army deployed in Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. ... I really appreciate what you guys are doing so much. It's very humbling to see how very generous the American people are and how hard you guys work to put these packages together and send them to us."
And from another Afghanistan-based serviceman:
"Just wanted to personally thank you on behalf of the 300 or so
servicemen and women on my base. Your packages have been such a morale boost. Over the past week as people have come by my office, no one has left empty-handed or without a smile. ... Thank you, thank you, thank you."
And one more:
"What a blessing you are, Blue Star Moms!"
On a smaller scale than the holiday drive, Blue Star Moms also mail parcels to troops in February for St. Valentine's Day, and to commemorate Independence Day in July.
Donation suggestions for upcoming mailings -- including travel-size shampoo, current paperbacks and magazines, snack packs, bug spray, playing cards, batteries and granola bars -- can be viewed here.
For additional details on contributions, sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, view the Blue Star Moms' website at www.bluestarmoms.org.