Judi Bello is just one of many mothers who are scared and excited at the same time when it comes to thinking about their sons.
Serving as the president of the East Valley chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America, a service support group for mothers whose sons serve in the military, worrying is something Bello does every day. Her 22-year-old son, who has been in the Marines for two years, serves on special missions, which are classified to the point she didn’t want to release her son’s name or even say where he’s mostly based.
But as President Barack Obama plans to reduce the large number of troops in those countries and bring them home in the months ahead — 30,000 from Afghanistan, including 10,000 troops by the end of this year and another 20,000 by the end of the summer 2012 — Bello says the group would like to see more servicemen come home. There’s still well over 100,000 American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even with the reductions, there still will be 70,000 in Afghanistan alone.
Among those scheduled to return are a handful of East Valley servicemen who will be returning to the States when the large waves of troops are reduced, something Bello says is long overdue as some of the local servicemen are on their third tours in the Middle East.
“We were hoping for a little more, but we’ll take what we can get,” Bello said. “This war has been going on too long. It’s extremely difficult for the families and children of those serving in the military. I’m scared every single day. You live with the fear all the time. When you talk to people about your son serving in the military, people say, ‘Oh, they’ll be all right,’ but we don’t really know.”
As the 47 members of the East Valley chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America based in Chandler are set to mark the group’s first anniversary next month, they are making survival bracelets as part of a fundraiser. On Thursday, about 30 Blue Star mothers met inside the conference room on the second floor of the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World at Mesa Riverview to begin making the bracelets from the material the military uses in the field that is strong enough to use in emergency or critical situations.
The bracelets will be available for about $12, Bello said.
The Blue Star Mothers of America formed during World War II, nearly 70 years ago.
On Jan. 22, 1942, the Flint (Mich.) News Advertiser printed a coupon asking mothers of serviceman to return the coupon after filling it out. The following month, 300 mothers met in Flint’s Durant Hotel. Army Capt. George H. Maines, who had conceived the idea for the group, acted as the chairman of the first meeting. It was decided after receiving 1,000 responses to the ad to form a permanent organization.
Chapters then formed in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, Iowa and Washington. In June 1960 the organization was chartered by Congress.
Mothers volunteered throughout the tough times of World War II. They worked in hospitals and train stations and mailed care packages to soldiers. Although the Blue Star Mothers chapters throughout the United States began to wane in membership after World War II, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011, once again got mothers hanging flags with pride in the windows of their homes.
Gina Vizzerra of Chandler said she joined Blue Star Mothers when her son, Jason, entered the Army two years ago; he has been serving in Iraq for the last eight months.
“I look for support and someone to share this fear with,” Vizzerra said.
Bello said the group always is looking for more members.
“A lot of mothers who worry about having a son in the service think they’re going through it alone, but there’s a lot of us out here,” Bello said. “We want them to know that we’re hear for them.”
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