Alert
Close

Take AARP’s Smart Driver course and you could save money on your car insurance. Learn more

Giving Back

AARP Foundation

Help AARP Foundation win back opportunity for struggling Americans age 50 and over. Eighty-seven cents of every dollar spent goes directly to life-changing programs and services. Do

MOST POPULAR

Viewed

Bands of Mothers Support Parents of Children in Military

Cathy Cleaver at Home in Audubon, PA, putting together a care package for her son Evan. Shot on Thursday, November 04, 2010

Cathy Cleaver at Home in Audubon, Pa. putting together a care package for her son Evan. — Bill Cramer/Wonderful Machine

A Military Mother: Cathy Cleaver

Cathy Cleaver knew the time was coming.

Even as a preschooler, her son, Evan, wanted to be in the U.S. Army. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Evan's commitment only grew.

He attended college on an ROTC scholarship. In training, Evan routinely bested seasoned Green Berets in mountaineering and other exercises. And last spring, he graduated near the top of his class in one of the military's most dangerous and important specialties: leading an explosive ordnance disposal unit, the type of experts who dismantled roadside bombs in the film The Hurt Locker.

Just after Memorial Day, First Lieutenant Cleaver, 25, deployed to Afghanistan.

And Cathy Cleaver, 54, couldn't stop crying.

"I had six year to prepare for this," Cleaver says. "We were at war, and I knew he would go fight that war. But no matter how much you tell yourself you are prepared, when that day comes and your child is sent to fight for his country, it hits you like a ton of bricks. And you realize you aren't as prepared as you thought."

At her job as an operating room nurse at a busy Philadelphia hospital, Cleaver couldn't concentrate and had to take time off. The Xanax prescribed by her doctor helped ease some of her anxiety, she says, "but it didn't change the fact that I think of my son every minute of the day. And that I may never see him again."

Her friends couldn't offer the help she needed. "They are all supportive, they all love Evan, but they just don't get it. They'll say, ‘Why did you let him join? How could you do that?' Because their kids aren't in the military, they don't understand that Evan and others like him want to be there. They feel it's their duty, that it's their calling."

Then Cleaver turned to the Blue Star Mothers of America, the nation's oldest and largest support group for military parents. Named for the symbol that since World War I has signified a household with a child in service, membership is open to mothers and stepmothers whose children are in the U.S. armed forces or have been honorably discharged. Most women in Cathy's chapter have a son or daughter serving in Afghanistan.

"I no longer feel alone," she says. "It's not a pity party. Together, we meet to figure out how to be a mother with a child in Afghanistan."

They have monthly luncheons and prayer services. They hear speakers — often military chaplains and returning veterans — and bond while packing boxes of items and letters to send to troops overseas.

"I honestly feel I send my stresses away in those boxes," Cleaver says.

"It's just being there that helps, surrounded by other mothers who know what you're going through. We're a sisterhood, all in the same boat, who realize that our way of life is possible because of the bravery of these soldiers … the kids we raised. And we couldn't be prouder."

Read about a mother of an American solider who founded a chapter of Blue Star Mothers.

A Volunteer Mother: Marian Moran. Read on>>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discount & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Anna's Linens

Member save 10% every day at Anna's Linens and AnnasLinens.com.

Faanui Bay, as seen from beach on Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Members save up to $525 on vacations at AARP® Travel Center powered by Expedia®

Pepperoni Pizza, Papa Johns Superbowl promotion for AARP members

Members save 25% off regular price menu items at Papa John's

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Being Social

Community Volunteers

Honor Our Soldiers

Stop by to recognize those who have served our country, past and present. Discuss