This is an amazing article by our associate correspondent, Paige Sutherland. Thanks for helping us out, Paige!
Evanston resident Michael Merdinger recently welcomed his son Jamie home from active duty in the U.S. Marines. While Jamie served for four years, Michael took pride in his son’s sacrifice by displaying a Blue Star Banner in his window.
On Veteran’s Day this Sunday, people will celebrate those like Jamie who have risked their lives for this country, but do we recognize what their families have sacrificed?
When soldiers are called into war, they leave parents, spouses and children behind. And despite the emotional strain of losing their loved ones any second, these families must carry on.
Through the Blue Star Banner Campaign, military families are given an opportunity to forge ties with those who understand the burdens of having a loved one serving in the U.S. armed forces. Sharing this common bond allows families to feel connected, supported and comforted.
The banner, available in all sizes, is white with a red border, displaying a blue star for each family member serving in the armed forces.
“The Blue Star Banner leads as a good visual to make the community aware of military families in the neighborhood,” said Russ Hopkins, director of Blue Star Family Platoon.
Hopkins, an Army veteran from the Chicago area, has been spreading awareness for the Blue Star Banner for almost seven years trying to revive the tradition that dates back to World War I. “Every generation has its heroes. This one is no different,” Hopkins said, reiterating one of the U.S. Army’s creeds.
Blue Star Banners began in 1917, serving to honor all who are actively fighting in the armed forces. Anyone with an immediate family member in active duty is eligible to display the banner in his or her window or place of business. The Blue Star Banner allows neighborhoods an opportunity to recognize and establish connections with military families within the community.
“It creates a sense of pride in my son – a sense of community with other families who have a loved one in active duty,” said Michael Merdinger.
Merdinger was attracted to the Blue Star Banner because it builds a support system for his family and him. While his son was in Afghanistan, Merdinger took comfort in knowing that he was not alone and that others understood what he was going through. The challenge is not the desire to hang the Blue Star Banner; the challenge is spreading the word, Merdinger said.
When a loved one is deployed, military families face psychological challenges, said Dr. John Mundt, a licensed clinical psychologist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. Family members become burdened with the stress of separation, change and anxiety of what is happening to their loved one.
Children are particularly vulnerable to psychological problems as a result of deployment since their pace of development grows exponentially, Mundt said. With 85 percent of military kids attending public schools, children are not receiving the attention they need because their schools are inadequately equipped to help these struggling students.
A support system for these families is essential in order to integrate these families into the community. And the Blue Star Banner is a simple way to unite these military families and direct them to the resources they need, Mundt said.
“The more people that can be made aware of those who are fighting and risking their lives for this country, the more support there can be for their families,” Merdinger said.
(Here is a link to our Blue Star Banner facebook page where you can view pictures of banners in the windows and the heroes we honor by hanging these service flags in our windows. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Star-Banners/313087382071585)