The Goose Mans the Booth

Every weekend, indeed everyday, brings new opportunities to build awareness of the old Blue Star Banner tradition. Mother Goose and, of course, Mr. Goose have been spotted in several locations lately — making those connections to military families and explaining the benefits of having a banner hanging in their front windows.

Mark is completely in charge of setting up our booth and blowing up the balloons.  Thank you, dear!

Mark is completely in charge of setting up our booth and blowing up the balloons. Thank you, dear!

In fact, just this past weekend, we braved the drizzle and dropping temperatures in lovely, convenient Oak Park to occupy a booth at the 40th Annual Day in Our Village celebration. Thousands of local residents visited Scoville Park and were treated to tasty concessions, an excellent variety of live music, pony rides, face painting, hair dyeing, balloons, candy, a lot of brochures, information overload AND the opportunity to sign Thank You cards to send to the troops.

Love that kid in the front...

Love that kid in the front…

Yes, that’s dear Mother Goose manning the Blue Star Family Platoon booth!

You may notice that she is wearing large dark sunglasses even though the day is obviously overcast. Nobody even knew that behind those glamorous Hollywood shades, Mother Goose was hiding two hideous eye infections…

We had thousands of visitors to our booth and so many folks signed the Thank You cards. People care very much about our brave servicemen and women — often Americans really want to do something concrete to show their support, but are simply unaware or unsure of ways they can make a difference in the day of a soldier or sailor.

Hundreds of Americans signed cards to send to the troops!

Hundreds of Americans signed cards to send to the troops!

Mother Goose is always glad to provide those ways and opportunities.

A very special shout out to a friend of Mother Goose who showed up at the booth with a container of freshly baked bars to bolster the energy level of this goose. Regina is the mom to a very special Marine — a Purple Heart recipient who will be retiring from the Marine Corps this autumn. In fact, Regina and I met BECAUSE she had a Blue Star Banner in her front window!

Regina saved my life with her home-baked, still warm from the oven gooey bars.

Regina saved my life with her home-baked, still warm from the oven gooey bars.

THAT’s exactly why I do this for a living! Well, actually, I don’t get paid…yet.

I am working towards making that dream come true.

Doesn’t it seem like this would be the perfect career for this goose?

In the weeks to come you will be called on to support a very special project of mine. I will share details as the days draw nearer, but let me just say right now that Mother Goose is going way out on a limb with a military family support project that will dazzle you and bring a tear to your eye…

Enough said.

A Blatant Plug for the New Blog

Many of my most faithful readers have asked, “Where are you, Mother Goose? We miss your daily stories about people you know and places you go.”

And I do apologize for my seemingly absent stories, but I must tell you about the most exciting experience I’ve had in a long time! I met yesterday with a young man AND an older gentleman. Now before you get your undies in a bunch, please hear me out…

This was an interview I was conducting of a young U.S. Marine veteran who is now an accomplished and exhibited artist in the Chicagoland area. I am currently telling his story for all to hear over at that other Mother Goose blog, Mother Goose Salutes.

Of course, I am not one who likes to toot her own horn, per se. Or honk her own praises…

But this is such a great story about such an amazing man that I just have to invite you over there to read it. Here’s just a snippet from the story:

“I’m actually thankful for getting blown up in Iraq four times. I’m actually happier now being an artist rather than getting the business management degree I always thought I’d get.”

(Maybe you need to stop and read that quote again…)

Marine veteran and artist, Richard Casper at The Corner Bakery.

Marine veteran and artist, Richard Casper at The Corner Bakery.

Please consider this an open invitation to follow The Ballad of Richard Casper, a real life American hero with a vision to help other disabled veterans — perhaps to even save the lives of some of our returning troops who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Love, Mother Goose

Honoring Gold Star Mothers

Yesterday Mother Goose and Husband Goose were invited to participate in an event to honor Gold Star Mothers. Many of my dear readers know that Mother Goose is a double Blue Star Mother — two of my sons serve proudly in the U.S. Navy. Sadly, there are many mothers in Illinois and across our great nation whose brave sons and daughters gave all in service to America. They are the Gold Star Mothers. The pain and the pride in the heart of Gold Star Mother goes above and beyond any ordinary mother’s love.

Because Mother Goose has connections to the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders, we were honored to stand in a flag-line at the entrance to the great hall of the Chicago Cultural Center and then move to the perimeter of the room for the ceremony honoring these mothers and families.

Many people may know of the Patriot Guard Riders. These are the men and women who provide motorcycle escort for the fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen from their touchdown at the airport to the place of their memorial service and then ultimately to their final resting place. The Patriot Guard supports the families, and protects them in the case of “military funeral” protesters and certain obscene extremist groups who oppose the war by aggressively and hatefully interrupting the services for our brave troops.

These proud bikers have huge hearts for the families, and I believe they have great love for one another as well. They were certainly welcoming and kind to this old goose who doesn’t have a leather vest or patches or a roaring Harley to ride, but always wants to be a part of something important nonetheless.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was there. Before the ceremony began, he patrolled the perimeter of the hall and shook the hand of every one of us Patriot Guards (the real ones and those of us who were Guards for the day). He has a very firm and sincere handshake. He spoke well from the platform, invoking the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and naming the fallen Heroes a “righteous host”.

Governor Quinn has been to Afghanistan — this Commander-In-Chief of the Illinois National Guard knows very well the sacrifice made by these families. Besides this honorable event, Governor Quinn attends military funerals, visits the families personally and calls them to express his deepest sympathy and gratitude for their unparalleled service to America.

Twelve mothers received Gold Star Banners because their sons and daughters had been killed in action this past year. All of the mothers (and fathers) in attendance were given a beautiful golden rose — the largest roses I had ever seen! One by one they crossed the front of the hall of the Grand Army of the Republic and laid these gorgeous roses at the base of a flag representing a branch of the Armed Forces: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Most of the roses piled up below the Army and Marine flags, but there were two for the Navy. The tears rolled down the feathery cheeks of Mother Goose as she stood at attention with her American flag. Many of the big tough biker guys were swiping at tears of their own as the moms kept coming forward with their roses, and the vocalist sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

We were not permitted to take photographs at the ceremony, but Mother Goose caught a couple before and after the event.

Bikers milling around the parking garage before we exited for the event. Also, the parents of Army Spec. Cory Hubbell who died in Kuwait in 2003 at the age of twenty.

One of the guys carrying the American flags back to the parking garage.

My friend, Marine veteran and all around great guy, David Hume carrying more flags back to the parking garage.

Many of the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders are veterans.

This morning, the Patriot Guard Riders will be part of the funeral parade for Petty Officer Dion Roberts, KIA last week in Afghanistan. We also hear that yesterday marked the 2,000th American casualty in the Global War on Terrorism. Please pray for peace…

Mother Goose will never forget this experience. It was a privilege and an honor to play a part in this great event — to remember and never forget the men and women who have died in the name of freedom. God, please bless Gold Star Mothers and families with your great comforting love and peace today.

Pizzas 4 Patriots

Mother Goose and her Blue Star Mothers friends were whole-heartedly proud to participate in an event to support the troops in Afghanistan last week.

An organization called Pizzas4Patriots worked together with worldwide delivery logistics experts, DHL Express, to deliver 30,000 pizzas to our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and women who are in harm’s way. Yes, thanks to this GREAT project, our men and women will be eating pizza on the 4th of July.

30,000 pizzas! Delivered to one of the hottest places on the planet! YES, it can be done! Thanks DHL! Thanks Pizzas4Patriots! Thanks Blue Star Mothers! But especially thanks to all of our sons, daughter, husbands and wives, friends and family who have sacrificed their time for the sake of freedom.

Be safe over there, and hurry home!

Boxes of pizzas being loaded to the DHL truck via “bucket brigade” mode.

Passing those pizzas down the line.

Yes!! They had Chicago police department bagpipers!

Joyce Carrasco, president of our Blue Star Mothers group, praying with other parents of servicemen and women.

Blue Star moms Beth and Pat supporting the great event.

DHL warehouse and BIG truck in Franklin Park, Illinois

Mother Goose and Blue Star mom friend, Cathy

Oh, and here’s just a little footnote:

The REAL pizzas were loaded during the night whilst the temperatures were cooler than 95 degrees, so this was a staged demonstration for media and promotion purposes… Mother Goose is all in favor of publicity for pizza and supporting the troops! I know those guys and gals are going to have a GRAND pizza party all over Afghanistan.

Love, Mother Goose

P.S. Happy 4th of July! Be safe — drink lots of water!

Another Fallen Soldier

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

— Mary Elizabeth Frye (1932)

We got news this morning that another Marine in our Chicago Metro area has been killed in action in Afghanistan.

Corporal Alex Martinez USMC

Alex is the second Marine we’ve lost in a month’s time. Corporal Conner Lowry was returned to his family on March 9th. His mother was presented with a Gold Star Banner and a prayer shawl by the president of our local chapter of Blue Star Mothers. And now, Mrs. Julianna Martinez, the wife of Corporal Alex Martinez will be presented with the same.

It breaks my heart.

Since my sons joined the U.S. Navy last year, I pay more attention to the war. I sadly and shamefully confess that until my boys left for boot camp, I gave little thought to our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. America’s been at war, and I’ve been at the mall. Like other Americans, I’ve complained about the cost of the war and the futility of peace in these Middle East nations. I prayed general prayers for the safety of the troops. But it’s never really personal until it’s your own family or friend who leaves in defense of freedom.

Now my days are different. I spend hours each and every day, coordinating the dissemination of Blue Star Banners. I lie awake in the early hours of the day, thinking of new ways to elevate the awareness of this old tradition. I look for banners in the windows of the homes in our town.

I write letters to my sons to keep them informed about family activities, never letting on that I worry about them as deployment day draws nearer and nearer. And my tears fall every time there’s bad news from the Department of Defense.

Now I have friends whose sons and daughters face mortal danger each and every day. Now I pray for soldiers, airmen and sailors by name because the war is very personal to us.

Nobody wants to support this war — but everybody should support the families of the men and women who have been called to serve in the Armed Forces. Find a way to make this war personal. Adopt a soldier. Buy them a cup of coffee through Green Beans Coffee. Pick a soldier from our Blue Star Banners facebook page and commit to pray for him or her. If you know of a military family who is expecting a baby, please tell them about Operation: Shower — we want to bless these Mamas!

I hope you’ll find joy and peace in your Easter celebration this weekend if you are a Christian. If you’re Jewish, God bless your Passover celebration. If you’re someone who just loves bunnies and candy and spring flowers, that’s all good too. But if you think of it, please pray for the family of Corporal Alex Martinez. Love, Natalie

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