This sparked Mooney’s curiosity, who started to research the Blue Star Service Banner. He was inspired to create something to follow in the tradition of the banner as a tribute to his son, SPC Marcus Mooney, Chanute resident and member of Company B of the 891st Engineer Battalion, currently stationed in Iraq on his second tour.
Mooney himself is a veteran. While he spent time overseas, he never went to war.
Working with another veteran friend, Daren Spencer, the two came up with a design for a window display. Each feature in the design has meaning.
The flag represents patriotism and pride in America; the eagle represents freedom; the branch represents those home praying for loved ones overseas; the gold ring around the branch, holding up the star, represents the link to troops serving in Iraq and around the world; the blue star represents the loved one overseas; and the gold star represents the loved ones that are lost but not forgotten.
The display started out as a way for Mooney to show his support and pride for his son. “He’s doing what he believes in and I think that’s important,” he said. “I can’t even describe my own personal pride in what he’s doing and what he feels is right.”
One night, Mooney entertained friends who had a brother going to Iraq and asked if Mooney could make them a display as well. Mooney’s family started thinking that maybe others would want a Blue Star and his mother-in-law suggested setting up a Web site to offer the displays across the country.
The Blue Star for a Safe Return Web site, www.bluestarsforsafereturn.com, officially launched on Dec. 7 in honor of Pearl Harbor. Since then, it’s become Mooney’s passion.
Now available on the Web site are a window display, a magnet and a car window sticker. But the site isn’t about making money. It’s about reaching out to families of deployed troops and raising awareness.
With the site up and running, Mooney is on a mission to make contact with family readiness support groups across the country to offer his merchandise at wholesale prices for fund-raisers. Mooney already supplies merchandise for Baker and Union counties in Oregon, and the local FRG coordinator, who owns a consignment shop, sells Mooney’s merchandise in her store.
All of the money from fund-raisers goes to family support groups to help families send packages to soldiers overseas. In order to keep costs down, Mooney has decided not to distribute the merchandise through commercial retailers.
Mooney uses the money from people who order directly from the site for individual purposes to continue producing merchandise, but encourages people to buy the merchandise from their local FRG coordinator so the troops and families will benefit from the money.
Mooney hopes the Blue Star for a Safe Return increases community awareness of families that are in the hometowns of the troops that are struggling with dad or mom being gone and all of the different issues that occur on a day-to-day basis.
“There are a tremendous amount of issues that the local families go through,” Mooney said. “Most of us tell them we are praying for their soldiers. Let’s pray for our local families. They are making a lot of sacrifices so their soldiers can be over there.”
Having served overseas himself, and having a son deployed now, Mooney understands the impact and fear of having a loved one gone.
“It’s scary,” he said. “What do you say to your son who calls you just before he leaves for Iraq? ‘Have a good trip?’” he asked. “I’m grateful that there are people like him that are willing to step forward and commit their time to defend our country and are proud to do so.”
Mooney hopes the site provides an emotional lift for everyone that visits, whether they make a purchase. He received one e-mail from a visitor that said the prayer for the troops was uplifting.
“They weren’t even a customer,” Mooney said. “That’s important to me. Buying from us isn’t a prerequisite for us to offer some personal and emotional support.”
Mooney encourages visitors to the site who have a soldier overseas to add his or her name to the Wall of Heroes.
Mooney loves to hear from people who visit the site and he and his wife, Shellie, answer every e-mail personally. In response to requests from families, Mooney is even adapting his merchandise.
Window displays can now be personalized with a soldier’s name and a prayer will soon be incorporated into the design. Through these correspondences, friendships have been developed across the miles from families who are going through the same experience.
So far, response to the Blue Star for a Safe Return has been overwhelming. Mooney wants people to know that it is not an attempt to replace the Blue Star Service Banner. In fact, Mooney has a link to the history of the banner on his Web site to raise awareness of the almost forgotten tradition.
“This is just another way to show support,” he said. “ Let’s let people know that we are praying for our troops.”
FRG coordinators may contact Mooney or complete the wholesale page, which soon may become the fund-raiser page, to order merchandise. Orders take a week to 10 days. Although Mooney hopes not to have to use them, people who lose a service member overseas can send their blue star back and will receive a gold star at no cost.
Effective Feb. 1, a black star with a Prisoner of War Missing in Action emblem will be available and a Veterans Wall will be established on the site.
Mooney would like to see the Blue Stars for a Safe Return out all across America.
“It truly has a heart,” he said. “We’re not talking about a product here, we’re talking about the whole entity, the whole process of supporting the troops and their families.”