By Christina Ledesma
La Habra Journal
For families with loved ones who are serving overseas, the uncertainty and longing can be challenging. One La Habra organization makes helping these families a priority.
Blue Star Support for La Habra families have identified about 75 families in La Habra and La Habra Heights that have a family member who are active in the military.
The majority of these families have purchased military banners through the Blue Star Support program that hang on La Habra Boulevard, to honor and recognize the sacrifice and service that their family member has given for our country.
According to Cheryl Cooley, who started the La Habra program with Ernestine Zapien, said that unfortunately not all the families can afford a banner for their loved one, so they look for support from the community and business donations to help families offset the cost.
“It’s really cool to drive down the street and see all the different branches of military and recognized names and families.”
Cooley and Zapien have both experienced having family members in the military and became interested in Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces campaign, which is a national organization that supports service members and military families.
“I want to stress this is not a political group, and that’s one of the biggest things that you run into with the military. The support for the military is not support for any specific political party; it’s not support for war or support against it. It’s strictly support for families who have someone deployed.”
With Michelle Obama’s focus on military families through her campaign, in 2008 a group of military spouses came together to start the non-profit organization Blue Star Families to bring awareness of the challenges that military families face. Cooley and Zapien started the Blue Star Support for La Habra Families about a year ago, and it is just one out of 70 chapter-based communities across the country.
“We noticed that we had a lot of friends, we notice there were classmates of our children who had someone in the military that was deployed. Whether if it was an older sibling, a parent, an uncle that they were very close to. And so we decided we wanted to do something more and bring awareness to the fact that La Habra does have a large active military family.”
Cooley mentioned that her goals for the program focus around the 2012 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which states that “95 percent of military family members feel the general public does not truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by them and their families.” So they want to focus on coming up with small ways to support the local families in La Habra by helping them connect with resources, getting banners for public recognition, having local businesses host a family dinner when their loved one comes home and providing tips for the schools by including that deployed family member in the child’s life, whether if it’s hanging a picture of the child’s deployed family member in the classroom or Skyping with them during a parent/teacher conference. The Blue Star Support program also works closely with The Gary Center to provide support groups for military families who need counseling services.
Though this program is fairly new to La Habra, in the future Cooley would like to see every military family with a banner up on La Habra Blvd., and would also like to implement a banner retiring ceremony with the city to acknowledge the military members who our returning home.
“Just a public acknowledgement I think that just speaks volumes for our community and it’s a welcome home. And I know our city feels that way and our government feels that way. It’s just a very small way to acknowledge the family who served.”
Check out Blue Star Support for La Habra Families on Facebook.