http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2011/11/18/bringing-military-moms-together


Mountain View Voice

News - November 18, 2011

Bringing military moms together

Group baby shower at Moffett helps create connections

by Nick Veronin

The women giggled and made small talk as they combed through the assortment of brightly colored blankets, knit hats and pajamas, arranged in piles atop one of the tables.

Everything before the women — all recent or expectant mothers — was donated by people from around the country and brought to the Moffett Field military housing clubhouse for the event, which might best be described as a group baby shower.

Toby Nunn is executive director of Soldiers' Angels, the charitable organization that collected and distributed the donations given out at the Moffett Field event. Nunn said the idea behind the Oct. 27 gathering was to bring military wives and pregnant service women together in a social setting, where they could talk with others who have had similar experiences.

"You always hear about people having a baby shower just for their own baby, but I thought it was a really good idea to have a joint baby shower," Shelby Sumner said. "I think it was a great idea for all of the expectant mothers to get together, meet each other. I really enjoyed it."

Sumner, who is pregnant with her first child, said her husband will be deployed to Afghanistan soon after their baby, Jasper, is born. She knows from prior experience that she can get lonely when her husband is away on duty. In addition to the donations of diapers and baby clothes she received at the event, she appreciated the chance to meet other expectant military wives living in the Bay Area.

On average, Sumner and her husband, Jason, have moved to a new a military outpost every two years for the better part of a decade, and Moffett Field is the closest they have ever lived to her home and family in the Los Angeles area.

Sumner is optimistic that she may become friends with some of the women she met at the group baby shower. "It just helps to talk to people who are going through a similar situation, so you're not isolated."

Showing support

"It's nice to meet a stranger who cares," said Micayla Wiltron, the San Jose woman who organized the Moffett Field gathering. "It shows them that they do have community support."

Wiltron has been involved in Soldiers' Angels for more than six years. She joined the organization to honor her brother, a Desert Storm veteran. For years, she had worked through Soldiers' Angels on a project that collected holiday care packages for 12 members of the Air Force stationed locally.

Soldiers' Angels was founded in 2003 by the mother of a soldier who was inspired to take action when her son wrote home saying he was saddened that many of his brothers in arms seldom received care packages from home — if ever.

The organization has a number of projects aimed at helping American service men and women, along with their families. Some are as simple as sending letters of thanks or boxes of shaving razors overseas; other projects raise money to buy airline tickets for soldiers so they can come home to visit family.

The Moffett Field group baby shower was Wiltron's first time participating in another Soldiers' Angels effort, called Operation Top Knot — named for a style of beanie-like infant hats.

At the shower, the women enjoyed refreshments and played games during a social hour before the donations were distributed. Some of the women's older children played with one another while the mothers socialized.

In addition to building a sense of community for local military moms, the donations were also appreciated, Wiltron said.

"A lot of people make the assumption that soldiers get everything they need because they're enlisted, but they don't," Wiltron said. "They have bills like we do."

Sumner, who is giving up her job to stay at home and take care of Jasper, said that she and her husband recently bought a car, because they needed a vehicle with a backseat for the baby.

"We have expenses, just like everybody else," Sumner said, noting that she appreciated all of the "essential items," and was especially grateful for the video baby monitor that she and all of the mothers at the baby shower received. "That was very generous."

Nunn, who held the rank of sergeant first class when he served in the Army, said that as a soldier, "one of the things you worry about the most is the wellbeing of your family." He is proud to work for Soldiers' Angels and likes Operation Top Knot because it is a way to show appreciation to both the soldier and mother (who are sometimes one and the same).

"As a soldier, knowing that my family is being taken care of, I can focus better on my mission, which means that I'll be able to return home sooner and more ready to reintegrate," he said.

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