"While her son sweated and gasped through U.S. Army boot camp, Tammie Hayes found comfort and friendship on Facebook.
The captain of her son’s platoon at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., posted photos and videos from basic training on the popular social networking site, Hayes said. The Facebook page provided her with a link to new military moms just like her.
“It gave the mothers, the spouses, the siblings and everyone the opportunity to talk to each other and ask questions,” Hayes said. “We can help each other and give that support.”"
It also gave Hayes an idea. The Belmont resident decided to start a local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers, a group for mothers of active and honorably discharged military service members. The organization helps families of fallen troops, sends care packages overseas and raises money for other projects.
“I think it’s going to be a good support group, but we also want to help our soldiers,” said Hayes. “There are more and more who are going to be deployed.”
The Blue Star Mothers of America is a nonprofit organization authorized under the U.S. Code. It is nonpartisan and apolitical, according to its Web site.
“They’re just out for one thing,” Hayes said, “to support each other and support our troops.”
The local group will be the 11th chapter in North Carolina and will be called the Queen City Blue Star Mothers. With the next nearest chapter in Hickory, Hayes hopes Charlotte-area residents as well as those in Gaston County will join.
Despite the name, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins and grandparents are welcome to join the Blue Star Mothers. These relatives are admitted as associate members, according to the group’s Web site.
Hayes is still working to find a meeting place for the group. She has contacted military recruiters and local churches to find prospective members and said many people with links to the armed services seem receptive.
“It’s a big help,” she said. “It’s a good support group, and it’s good to have each other to lean on.”
Hayes’ son, Pvt. Michael Dawkins, is now training at Fort Sill, Okla., to become a cannon crew member in the Army. She said his time in boot camp was difficult for her, but the support of other Army parents helped ease the sting of separation.
“The first week I cried,” she said. “It was rough, but it eventually got better. It’s the communication, it’s having other people there to support you.”
Anyone interested in joining the Queen City Blue Star Mothers can contact Hayes at 704-860-4907 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can reach Corey Friedman at 704-869-1828.