Organization bridges gap between military families and the general public
Since April 2009, Blue Star Families aimed at integrating military families with the civilian population. Founded by military spouses at a kitchen table seeking ways to create community for others like themselves, the organization has been instrumental in helping families.
“When my husband went to war in 2003 as part of the invasion in Iraq, it was extraordinary to me how I had to figure out how to deal with this very scary thing,” says Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth Douquet. “Then asked my husband when he came home how did you do it. He said, ‘In the Marine Corps we have very good training.’ It made me realize that we military family members, we could use something like training, too. Anything that comes in life can be handled if you have community to handle it with and if you’re prepared.”
Douquet didn’t think that Blue Star Families would grow to touch 1.5 million military family members. The organization now boasts a network includes over 35 communities and chapters across the world.
One of the initial challenges the group faced initially was to figure out how to help service men and women and their families feel at home in their new cities and towns. Many military families still struggle with feeling like outsiders when they relocate, something Blue Star Families acknowledges and wants to change.
“The extraordinary challenges faced by military families are frequently exacerbated by isolation and lack of preparation. On the other side of the isolation issue, military families overwhelmingly believe that the civilian population does not know or understand the challenges they face,” says Bana Miller, communications director for Blue Star Families.
One way the group has sought to integrate the military families with the public is by way of creating Blue Star Museums. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America.
“It helps bring our local military and civilian communities together, and offers families fun and enriching activities in their home towns. We are thrilled with the continued growth of the program and the unparalleled opportunities it offers,” Douquet told the National Endowment for the Arts.
Adds Miller, “Blue Star Museums is a way to thank military families for their service and share with them America’s cultural treasures. Summer is also a season where military families frequently move to new assignments. This wonderful program introduces them to museums in their new communities and hopefully makes them feel more comfortable getting to know their new home.”
For those families dealing with deployment, another challenge facing military families, the organization has resources for families and children.
“We have an e-book available on our website — Everybody Serves — which is a handbook for service members and families to guide them through pre-deployment, deployment and reintegration challenges. We also have worksheets, videos, and other resources. Our chapters and communities also provide in-person support to our membership” says Miller.
“Blue Star Books on Bases is one of our most popular programs. Through the generosity of partners and supporters such as Disney, BAE Systems, Auto Trader, Operation Paperback, and Barnes & Noble, Blue Star Families donates books to military children, base libraries, Department of Defense schools, and military-impacted public schools and libraries across the world,” Miller says.
Since its launch in 2009, Blue Star Families has distributed over 120,000 books and impacted over 100,00 military children worldwide, according to Miller.
One thing is relatively certain for military families, moves happen. If your family is facing a possible move, Miller advises: “We have checklists and resources available on our website for families planning their next move. We also encourage our members to join the Blue Star Families chapter or community in their new location so they're immediately plugged in to a wealth of information.”