NORTH ADAMS — Eileen Monyahan wanted something special to honor her son Jonathon, a soldier enlisted in the United States Army. She ordered a special blue star service flag, had it embroidered with Jonathon's name, and waited for delivery at her Adams address.
But the delivery date came and no package arrived. After a bit of sleuthing, Monyahan learned that the mailman did in fact leave the package at her residence, so she assumed that perhaps another mix-up occurred.
"I thought maybe someone picked it up accidentally so I left a little note (at the package delivery area) and asked could the person who picked it up, maybe thinking it was theirs, please bring it back and leave it for me," she said.
But a day or so later, while bringing trash to a dumpster located on the property, Monyahan's heart sank when she found her flag, crumpled, with a hole in it, inside the dumpster.
"Someone must have thought it was something more valuable and when they saw what it was, they just threw it out," she told The Eagle. "It meant something to me."
The incident inspired her to launch a Berkshire County Chapter for Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., a national network of mothers, grandmothers and guardians that gather to support their children who are in the military.
The first meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Frank R. Stiles American Legion Post 125, based at 91 American Legion Drive in North Adams. The group is open to all military parents, including those with children in the military reserves, National Guard, veterans or active duty. Grandparents are welcome as well.
"There are things that only military parents and families can understand about having a child in the military," Monyahan said. "There are emotional things, concerns, questions, there are so many things that we can help each other with."
The term "Blue Star" is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag, a style of banner first flown by families during World War I. The flag has a white field with a red border and includes a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any periods of conflict involving the U.S. military. If a service member dies, the blue star is replaced by a gold star.
Pride in having a child in the military is often matched by fears surrounding the dangers they face. Most troops now use fake names and old, outdated pictures for any social media sites because of the danger posed by terrorist groups such as ISIS. Monyahan does not share on social media where her son is serving, or where his future deployments might be. She does not discuss his military career or what special trainings he may or may not be receiving.
"All Blue Star families are a breath away from being Gold Star families," she said. "The threats, the dangers, it's real."
Monyahan's son was friends with city resident U.S. Army Pfc. Michael DeMarsico, who was killed in action on Aug. 16, 2012, in Afghanistan.
"One of my favorite pictures of them is playing peewee football on the Cowboys football team," Monyahan said. "And now my son is in Michael's unit."
She added, "There are some things that only other military families and parents are going to get. It's not like sending your kid off to college. People have become Gold Star families from things that happen during a training mission."
Monyahan said she believes that sharing resources, advice and comfort can benefit families, and perhaps increase local support for troops and veterans groups.
"I am hoping we can get more support for the "Boxes of Love" that Patty Erdeski sends," she said.
The Boxes of Love project started after Erdeski's son, Arich, who was serving in Afghanistan, asked that she stop sending packages to him and start sending them to troops who received little from home.
Erdeski, who lives in Stamford, Vt., began the project in 2012 and, has sent out more than 600 of these care packages to troops to date, Monyahan said. Erdeski is still sending boxes to troops.
After Thursday's first meeting, the Berkshire County Chapter for Blue Star Mothers will continue to meet at 7 p.m., on the second Thursday of each month, at American Legion Post 125 in North Adams.
For more information, Eileen Monyahan can be reached at 413-212-0445.
If you go ...
What: The launch of the Berkshire County Chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., a military family support group.
When: 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Where: Frank R. Stiles American Legion Post 125, 91 American Legion Drive, North Adams.
Details: The group will continue to meet at 7 p.m., on the second Thursday of each month, at the same location.
Info: Eileen Monyahan at 413-212-0445.