Northwest NEWS

February 18, 2002

Features

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Blue star banners and 300 grandmas support area soldiers

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   Twenty-one year old Shad Talbott wasn't lonely while in boot camp. He was too busy reading the 25 cards and letters he received each day over the holidays. His drill instructor was curious about the excessive correspondence. "Just how many grandmothers do you have?" the instructor asked, incredulous.
   Private Talbott answered without hesitation, "Three hundred."
   Shad's grandmas —and grandpas — are residents at Brittany Park in Woodinville where his mother, Claudia Talbott, is program supervisor. During the Christmas season, Claudia Talbott had asked the residents at the retirement community if they would write to her son who was stationed in San Diego "to make him feel at home for the holidays," she explains. She wrote her son's address on strips of paper and placed the strips in a basket and set it in the lobby.
   The residents answered the call and soon an avalanche of mail addressed to Private Shad D. Talbott began pouring in at the Marine recruiting station. Every letter or card had words of encouragement and advice; many were from veterans who had served in World War II.
   After Christmas, Shad expressed his gratitude and addressed a letter to the residents and staff. He began "Thank you for all your cards and letters I received in boot camp. I graduated Jan. 4, 2002, as private first class and plan to finish my education in the fall at Central University in the PLC program (Platoon Leadership Course) ..."
   Claudia Talbott placed the thank you letter in the lobby and posted it next to a photograph of her son looking dapper in his Marine dress blues.
   Later, it came to Talbott's attention that there was another way she could show support for her son. She heard that the American Legion is bringing back the blue star banners that parents once hung on their front doors and windows to signify a child has gone to war. She already has the United States flag and the Marine Corps flag flying in her front yard and now plans to add a blue star banner to the collection and place one in her front window in a display of support for her son.
   Talbott isn't the only person wanting to show support for a family member in the military. Texanna Cato is a volunteer at the Northshore Senior Center and says she'll place a blue star banner at her home in honor of her grandson, 21-year-old Nathan Demetruk, a former Bothell resident who serves the Navy on a fuel supply ship. His ship's location has been kept secret because it fuels the ships involved in the war on terrorism. "I've just learned that he's stationed in the Bahrain area," says Cato. In the past year, her grandson was stationed in the Persian Gulf, but then flew home for a medical reason. Demetruk's son was born while he was on leave, but he didn't have much time to spend with his baby. He was soon shipped out to sea again, this time for a year. Cato mentions that his absence is hard on her grandson's wife. "It's a hardship on families," she says.
   By placing the banners at their homes, Cato and Talbott hope to show their military family member they care and that they are united with other parents who have sons or daughters in the service.
   The banner, bearing a single blue star in a field of white trimmed in red, was first proposed back in 1917 during World War I by an Army captain who had two sons serving overseas. During World War II, it was posted as a badge of honor. During the Gulf War the American Legion tried to revive the campaign, but the banners were no sooner ordered than the conflict was over. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the American Legion has again reactivated the campaign and has distributed over 14,000 banners with thousands more on order. Today, the banner stands as a symbol of a unified resolve to support the U.S. military men and women engaged in the war against terrorism.
   For family members who would like to obtain a banner to display at their home, leave a message for your request with the American Legion Post 161 in Redmond at (425) 883-0161.
   Tom Meade, adjutant at the Redmond Post, says he'll make one available to anyone who calls.