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‘Night Under Stars’ for Blue Star Mothers

An evening of dinner and dancing honors military moms, raises funds for overseas troop packages

Posted: October 29, 2009 9:33 p.m.
Updated: October 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Navy soldier Chris Slotterbeck, 21, scored a raffled gift basket.

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Mothers of children in service were served with moral support at the recent SCV Blue Star Mothers Chapter #91, "A Night Under the Stars."

Held at the Elks Lodge in Canyon Country, the event was organized by the local chapter of the organization for mothers who have children serving or who have served in the armed forces of the United States.

Gathering for a goal, the evening of dinner and dancing raised funds for the chapter's creation of care packages that will be sent to veterans as well as overseas troops during the holidays.

From 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. families and friends gathered to honor service members and those who stay by the sidelines rooting for their safe return home.

Chapter president Sandy Baer was on hand to welcome newcomers to the group and also recommence with veterans of the cause.

"I am glad that we are all able to come together in support of our troops and definitely each other," said Baer. "My son is in the Army and I know how it has affected me. Being able to reach out to other mothers who are going through something similar is really important to me. It helps a lot."

Families sat together while savoring the abundant display of classic American fare served buffet-style to the room of more than 50 guests.

A hefty selection of tri tip, barbeque chicken and baked beans left no plate unattended while guests enjoyed their dinner time with loved ones and friends.

One table of guests wasn't going to miss their opportunity to spend time together as a family.

"It feels good to be with everyone," said Navy soldier Chris Slotterbeck, 21.

Slotterbeck recently returned from a Naval base in Japan, where he was stationed in service for months at a time.

But he wasn't the only one to hear a call to duty.

Slotterbeck's 23-year-old brother Darren serves in the U.S. Marine Corp and recently returned home from extensive service in Afghanistan.

Time is something to be cherished according to Slotterbeck's mother, Sarah, who sat in attendance with the rest of the family spanning three generations.

"I look up and I see my boys. I see the family together and that is the best feeling in the world," she said. "It gets very emotional. But I am so thankful for every moment."

The atmosphere glowed with festivity as disc jockey Steve of Sounds Unlimited played a selection of nostalgic tunes to please ears of all ages.

Taste buds were given an extra treat when five large homemade cakes were served, each one marking an area of military service.
Cakes donning the symbols for the Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Coast Guard and Air Force were sliced and savored by the crowd.

A silent auction table set up toward the back of the room drew attention from all four corners, as guests sauntered over to behold the enticing goodies on display.

But bidding on gift baskets was only part of the fun for attendees, who were given five raffle tickets upon entering the event for their chance to win a host of prizes.

Raffles were conducted every few minutes, claiming the interest of guests who scrambled to see if a winning ticket was in their possession.

From raffle to door prizes, guests knew the biggest gift given was a sense of solidarity.

"This group has helped me cope with the challenges that I face everyday," said Blue Star Mother, Terrie Mann. "I found out that my son wanted to quit school and join the Army and I had to ask him, ‘Do you know we're in a war?' That's when he looked the most serious I had ever seen him and said that he wanted to do something for his country. After I picked myself up from the ground, I knew that he had found his calling in life."

Mann's 25-year-old son Tommy serves as Military Intelligence Maintainer for the army's systems operator. He tells his family at home that he has never felt more fulfilled than while serving.

Mann isn't the only one who noticed her son's newfound sense of self.

Mann's brother Jerry Goodman and his wife Toni continue to support the services that have made an impact on their nephew.

"There has been a total transformation in Tommy and we support him all the way because he loves what he's doing," said Toni Goodman.

"He's always been a good kid," said Jerry Goodman. "But now he's a good man."

But troops are seldom home to hear the words of support directly from those who mean it most.

For troops who cannot make it home for a warm embrace or for words of appreciation, the organization prepares close to 5,000 care packages a year.

The packages consist of daily usable items such as razors, bathing products, clothing, candy, drink mixes and other special treats to make the receiver feel the comforts of home.

Blue Star mother and father Pete and Connie Acevedo know that the farther the troops are from home, the further packaged items can go.

"When I use up my razor, I can just go to the store and buy another one. It's a blessing," said Acevedo. "But where the troops get stationed, there may not be anything for them if they run out of products. Someone may have to hold onto a razor until it breaks apart in their hands."

Connie Acevedo's son, Andrew, 21, joined the Marines.

But the call to duty was echoed nine months later when Andrew's 18-year-old brother Peter joined the corp.

That's when Connie Acevedo joined the organization for support that only blue stars could offer.

"We visited my son at his station over the holidays last year and I remember him telling me of a friend he had who didn't receive anything over Christmas. It broke my heart," said Connie. "My son said, ‘If you guys didn't come out and visit, that would have been me.'"

To ensure that motherly love reaches as far as possible, the organization receives at least 500 names of local troops who are stationed on active duty each year.

Five packages are sent to each name on the list, so that troops can dispense the care to those in other platoons.
As the number of care packages grow, so do the amount of troops on the receiving end.

With only 30 SCV Blue Star members working to create the packages, more help is recruited to make efforts thrive.

Enlisting the help of neighbors, family and members of the community, the mothers know that it takes many arms to form a strong reach.

One platoon reached back.

"A Marine leader wrote the organization saying that they heard of our care packages and said anything would help," said Connie Acevedo. "He mentioned that his troops were at low morale and he thought they could really use our help. It was so neat to hear what their needs were specifically so that we could send them new hope. With all the lows they might hit, we just want to help keep their spirits high."

Peter Acevedo added, "They are out there fighting for lives, but we are here helping to save theirs a little bit at a time."

The group provides support for active duty service personnel, promotes patriotism, assists veterans' organizations and continues to create homeland volunteer efforts for the troops and their loved ones back home.

In addition to care packages for troops and veterans, the organization sends pajama bottoms to military medical units as well as veterans in the hospital over the holiday season.

Baer sees that the smallest notion of care can travel a long way.

"The troops may think that they are forgotten," said Baer. "But we remember. We all want to let them know that through the small gestures that spread pretty far."

For more information about the local chapters of the SCV Blue Star Mothers, visit www.scvbluestarmothers.org

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