December 13, 2019
Welcome, Kiesha—Navy wife, mom of two, and D.C.-based writer and educator—to the Blue Star Families blog!
Teacher gifts. ✓
December band concert. ✓
Holiday cards sent. ✓
Two whole weeks of no school. ✓
Grocery store runs, Amazon orders; the list goes on and on.
The holidays are an intense time for everyone, thanks to family dynamics, grief, loss, and loneliness. When you add in the additional factor of being a military family, you get a whole new checklist of responsibilities.
Is mom or dad here for the holidays, or are they spending it somewhere around the globe, separated from their loved ones? Maybe the family is newly reunited, which comes with its own set of trials. Nothing is better than welcoming your service member home. But let’s not forget that reunion brings stresses of its own.
That’s what Blue Star Families is here for—to empower and uplift our service members and their families year-round. The company has a reputation for putting military families at the center of its priorities. In fact, families are the heartbeat of the organization.
Of the multitude of outreach, activities, and morale events sponsored each month, one of its most popular events is the Stars, Stripes, and Snowflakes Holiday Party on Fort Myers in Arlington, Virginia. This party is held annually for wounded warriors, service members, and their families.
What was this year’s Stars, Stripes & Snowflakes holiday party like?
Well, let me tell you – as a volunteer and spectator, I got the chance to observe as families shared a meal at long tables artfully decorated with gingerbread houses. Children had the opportunity to take a photo with Santa and share what’s on their list this year. Each child was given an age-appropriate wrapped gift to open and take home. These were not small gifts, either. I’m talking LEGO sets and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)-type crafts that would make any adults want in on the fun.
In a second room, there was face painting and an elaborate cookie decorating station where volunteers were dishing out their best tips for making the perfect sugar cookie sandwich with sprinkles! I watched a balloon artist perform some sort of Harry Potter-style magic when she turned a few skinny balloons into the most elaborate Minnie Mouse bracelet for an enamored toddler.
There was so much food, laughter, and conversation amongst friends and strangers that it almost felt more like a family reunion than a sponsored event. Did I mention that there were adult giveaways? Spa gift cards, technology, and Amazon gift cards were generously donated for the raffle. If the big guy in the red suit wasn’t enough, everyone’s favorite best friends, Bert and Ernie, showed up.
What makes the annual Stars, Stripes & Snowflakes holiday party so special?
Amid a season of busyness and hustle, I saw military dads, moms, and spouses slow down and, for just a few hours, truly enjoy time and activities with their kids. There was no prep and no clean-up. Just the good stuff.
As a mom of two and a Navy spouse, I can more than appreciate someone else doing the heavy-lifting so that I can be present with my littles. And, in a world full of distractions, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single kid on a device.
You’ve probably heard the holidays referred to as the season of perpetual hope. No one has to tell a military family what hope means during this time. Perpetual hope is continuing, enduring forever, everlasting. That is what we give our active-duty members, our children, and our communities.
What I love so much about Blue Star Families is that they not only see that, but they give it right back to us.
I hope that in the new year, you have the opportunity to attend an event with Blue Star Families. Even better, I hope you’ll consider volunteering or learning more about becoming a Blue Star Neighbor. Happy Holidays!