When Jeannie Kain’s son Stephan joined the U.S. Air Force, she felt scared for his well-being during the several weeks he spent in basic training.
Stationed in San Antonio, Texas, he spent the hot, summer days of 2011 training, including on “red flag” days when the heat became so severe that trainees were not allowed to exercise outdoors. He could call home once a week, Kain recounted.
“It’s not an experience any of us had gone through,” said Kain, a senior auditor on the health care team for the University of Michigan’s Office of Audit Services. Kain, originally from Dearborn, has worked at the university for about 27 years.
As a member of the Blue Star Mothers of America, Kain is now giving back to soldiers like her son, and connecting with families who have children in the military.
Founded in Flint during the 1940s, Blue Star Mothers consists of mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. Other family members are called associate members in the group.
With chapters nationwide, the organization in part helps veterans and active duty service personnel.
Kain first found out about the Blue Star Mothers after hearing one of the group’s representatives speak at a Memorial Day parade.
Now the financial secretary for the organization’s Flat Rock chapter, Kain said the group has shipped donation boxes to those on active duty, and delivered care packages of hoodies and toiletries to homeless veterans in Detroit. They also decorated cups and gave small gifts, like socks, to veterans at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System to thank them for their service.
Kain said participating in Blue Star Mothers gave her a way to meet and connect with other families who experience the struggles of having children in the military.
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Kain’s son started out in aircraft maintenance for B-2 stealth bombers. He now works in command and control and is based in the United States.
“We’ll support each other,” Kain said. “It’s not just like your kid’s away at college and you’ll see them at Thanksgiving. It’s a little different dynamic. … You’re scared for what’s happening to them on a daily basis. It’s not just like, ‘Make good choices. Don’t go to that party.’”
With Blue Star Mothers, Kain said it’s been rewarding to spread a little joy to those who have served their country.
“All we’re doing is putting together little cups with a pair of socks and Chapstick in it, but to see the faces of the veterans and to hear their expressions of gratitude is just so heartwarming and moving,” Kain said. “Something as simple as that can bring joy and a feeling of happiness to somebody.”