Military moms lend support through the Internet
December 18, 2002
Wendy Petit put her 18-year-old son, Jeremy, on a plane bound for basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. It was Aug. 2, 2001. She was anxious, as her mind filled with everything that could go wrong.
“It was the first time he’d ever been away from home,” said the mother of five from her home in Amherst, N.Y. “I was pretty scared and had a lot of questions that needed to be answered. It was the first time he had ever flown.
“While at the computer, refreshing the page to see his plane had landed, I kept looking for anything for military moms. Nothing.
“The day he left, I sat at my computer and built the Web site.”
Military Moms was born.
That Web site, www.militarymoms.net, now gets about 5,000 to 6,000 hits a day.
Its message board allows guests and members to post questions and answers. It features a live chat room, general information on basic training and the status of current group projects. There are also greeting cards, a quilt pattern, a cookbook and a gift shop carrying Military Mom logo items for all branches of the service, as well as for military spouses, dads and grandparents.
The mission of Military Moms, according to the Web site’s statement, is “to provide support and encouragement to the families who have a loved one serving, to share the love of Jesus Christ, to support our troops who put themselves in harm’s way everyday so we can be free.”
And that mission, which began with one mother’s search for answers, is now carried out by 646 members who have joined her cause. Their work helps countless others, many who find support and answers through the Web site, as well as deployed troops to whom care packages and correspondence are sent.
“This is a full-time job for me … It’s literally a 24-hour job right down from the mom who has questions about when is graduation, from the day they leave boot camp, and the ones that go AWOL,” Petit said.
Aside from mothers, there are fathers, aunts, grandparents and military spouses who also support the group.
“One good thing about the spouses is they really help out with the questions. It comes full circle. When the new members come they have questions and the old members have the answers. Pretty soon they’re old members helping newcomers,” Petit said.
“The best info was from a couple of wives of the drill sergeants at Fort Benning who would post on Military Moms. They knew what was going on … They had good answers,” Karla Lynch of Wasilla, Alaska, said.
Lynch’s 19-year-old son Nick was in basic training at Fort Benning about the same time as Petit’s son. At graduation last November, a handful of Military Moms who had met through e-mail and the chat room sought each other out.
“Two groups went down and met each other. We wore purple hats so we could recognize each other. There were 10 moms that Thanksgiving,” said Petit.
Leslie Bligh of Camarillo, Calif., had no experience with the military world before her 20-year-old son Joshua enlisted.
“I really didn’t know anything and your mind is just full of questions and they don’t tell you a whole lot. I was just overwhelmed with his leaving and what kind of world he was going into.
“The ‘Basic Training for Moms’ at the Web site is great – it pretty much tells you what to expect and what’s happening,” Bligh said.
It was more than just information, Bligh said. She also found unbelievable support from other members.
Her son went to Maryland for his Advanced Individual Training after basic, “and I couldn’t go so one of the Military Moms went for me and sent me pictures online.
“This past September, he was really struggling and I went to the Military Moms because I knew someone was in Maryland. One member’s husband was on base so they went over and talked to him and encouraged him. When I wasn’t there, they were there,” Bligh said.
Recently, Joshua Bligh decided military life wasn’t for him and left with an honorable discharge. But his mother remains an active member of Military Moms.
“I’ll never leave. The support you get is just incredible, especially when you’re new and you think you’re probably asking stupid things. No question is dumb, and they’ll tell you anything you want to know. It’s just really a family, it really is,” Bligh said.
Kathy Martell of New Haven, Vt., stumbled across Military Moms while looking for information on the Internet shortly after her daughter left for Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., last year.
She found camaraderie with other moms.
“They’re there when you don’t get the call you’re expecting, and they’ve all been there. They’re there for support. When you get good news — my daughter was chosen for platoon leader — they’re there … If it’s for something good or if you need a prayer or you need a shoulder, somebody is always there to help you out,” Martell said.
“It’s family — they’re going through the same thing. I go on and check at least twice a day, I check to see what we’re doing to support the troops.”
And support for the troops has taken many different forms through projects year-round.
In February, Operation Valentine consisted of 256 pounds of valentines being sent to troops in Afghanistan through the efforts of Military Moms. Another 1,000 pounds of cards and letters followed this November.
For the holidays, the group is busy gathering and forwarding Christmas cards and letters for servicemembers everywhere.
“We just mailed out 500 pounds of cards and letters for the holidays. A big bag is going out tomorrow,” Petit said in late November.
“Right now we’re preparing mail to Pakistan for Operation Pencil Project. We’re collecting items for the schools in Pakistan,” said Petit, who corresponds via e-mail with the army major in Pakistan coordinating the project.
And in times of need, the moms are there to support families who have lost loved ones in service to our country.
“One of the moms in our group, her son was lost in Afghanistan. We provided lunch at his funeral,” Petit said. “When there’s an accident, we collect cards and send them to the families. We did that for the two soldiers that were killed at Fort Polk.”
The incident involved two Fort Campbell soldiers who were accidentally run over by a tank on Nov. 14 while participating in exercises at Fort Polk, La.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of Military Moms is the network of support from others in similar circumstances.
“Just the support, especially at times like these when there’s so much uncertainty and there have been many moms that have had their daughters and sons deployed. That fear, ‘Is it going to happen to my soldier, my child?’” Martell said.
And the feeling of family that’s there.
“The military family is really a family and if you don’t have somebody in the military, you don’t really understand. The parents, the wives and the families serve right along with the soldiers, too,” Petit said. “When he joined, we joined with him.”