Veterans’ Day now looks a bit different to Oakdale mothers Emmy McDaniel and Alicia London than it did two years ago. Both are now parents to sons who are on active duty in the military. That’s a fact which prompted them both to become pro-active with Mid-Cal Blue Star Moms, a congressionally chartered Veteran Service Organization.
McDaniel began a local chapter earlier this summer, the first of its kind for the tri-city area with the closest prior to that being in Merced, Sacramento or Fresno.
“We just chartered this group in August,” McDaniel, President of Chapter 39 of California, stated.
Not letting time pass too quickly and getting straight to work, McDaniel has already built a strong committee of five, recently adding London as First Vice President. The two women, along with the committee are now spending their days getting the word out on the Care Package Donations they are in need of for the upcoming holiday season to send to the troops.
A partnership with both local Starbucks has been formed for list retrieval, as well as a drop off location.
“This is our first time collecting the care packages,” McDaniel said of the novice group’s current drive. “We will be sending off care packages for active duty both deployed and stateside. We’re also looking to send items for homeless vets, as well as to the VA hospitals in the Bay Area.”
McDaniel’s son Clayton, OHS Class of 2013 is currently serving in the US Navy stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. London’s son Justin Weber, OHS Class of 2012 is serving in the Army and currently deployed in Afghanistan.
“They are happy to get anything,” London said of the deployed and overseas troops. “Old movies, video games, old gaming systems. They have a ton of board games, just anything to keep them busy, because when they’re not working there is a lot of down time.”
The Army mom shared that while many love to send baked goods and edible treats, perishables for those overseas are not ideal.
“They love trail mix, bubble gum, sunflower seeds, Pringles and granola bars,” London said of the limited food items that can be sent. “A lot of the guys are working out so protein bars and protein powder are also good.”
“They also just love anything from home,” McDaniel said, noting her son’s appreciation for artwork sent from a child and hand written letters he has received.
“We would love to get addresses of persons deployed to send packages to,” McDaniel said. “They can contact us at email@example.com.”
Donation boxes will remain up at both Starbucks locations through Dec. 7 at which point final items will be shipped out. The timeframe allows just enough time to make it to those stateside as well as abroad for the holidays.
“It’s Christmas time,” London noted. “So the Post Office will be busy with packages going out. The sooner items come in the better. We are sending out boxes as we receive things.”
As the two women reflected on Tuesday’s holiday, known to most as Veterans’ Day, a day of observance … each offered thoughts with tear-filled eyes.
“It means a lot more than it did before,” McDaniel said frankly. “We now have a total appreciation that we did not have before. Not only what the service members go through, but what the families go through.”
“Until it’s your child, your family or someone close to you,” London added, “…it’s a real holiday for us now.”
For additional information regarding donations or joining the Mid-Cal Blue Star Moms e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call McDaniel at 209-595-3764.