Shortly after my son deployed to Iraq in 2007, I was approached by another military mother in the community, and she handed me a small lapel pin. “Wear this,” she told me. “It shows that you are a mother of a soldier serving in a time of war.”
I was buckled, at the time. My kid had been gone just a few months, and I was worried, frustrated, and terrified. Sometimes I didn’t share it with others, for fear of just bursting into tears and getting snot everywhere. Other times I blurted it out to complete strangers: “My son is in Iraq and I am buying him these snacks… My son is in Iraq and I am sending him this box… My son is in Iraq and I just missed his phone call.”
This lapel pin is a replica of a flag that was designed during World War I for families of soldiers to hang in their windows at home:
This flag has one star on it. There are flags with more than one star, indicating that there is more than one immediate family member serving “during a time of war, or hostility with another country.” And there are the flags that catch in our throats, those with a gold star, indicating they have lost a loved one to war. A wonderful historical summary of these flags can be found on the Blue Star Mother’s website.
Since I was begifted my pin by friend Chris Lyke, I have taken her lead and I keep a few extra on hand to present to new Military Mamas and family members that I meet. I’ve presented them at going away parties for young soldiers heading to Afghanistan. Even when my own son is home safe, watching yours fly away buckles me as if he is my own. I usually get as far as, “This blue star means that you have a son or daughter…” before she starts crying, and then I do.
I can’t quite explain why, but having my own little badge is comforting. It did not, of course, alleviate my fears, but it did bring me an odd peace. It was a means of displaying that I was proud of my son. It allowed me to communicate what was going on in my life—”My son. He is in Iraq. In a war”—without mentioning it, constantly. It sent a signal to other veterans and military families who knew what the symbol meant, and opened the door to easy conversation from people that didn’t need me to explain what I was feeling.
I had never heard of the Blue Star before mine was presented to me. Now I see them everywhere. I know which houses in my community have them hanging in the front window. I see them on bumper stickers and car windows, and I spot other pins, on the collar of my flight attendant and the denim jacket of a veteran father.
If you spot one while you are out and about, I highly encourage you to summons the courage to speak up. A quick “I see you have a family in the service. Please thank him or her for me” goes a long way towards cheering up a nervous mama!