MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Blue Star Mothers, a national veterans’ service organization founded by military mothers, has come under fire in the Twin Cities and around the country.
“I’ve been terminated,” said Cindy McLean, the founder of the St. Paul Blue Star Mothers chapter. “Just to be kicked out, with no apparent cause or even a chance to be heard.”
In February 2006, McLean founded the first Blue Star Mothers group in the Twin Cities, when she realized a chapter didn’t exist in the area.
She turned to the organization when her son, Spc. Christopher Zaspel, left for two tours in Afghanistan.
“It’s in my family history,” said McLean. “My grandmother during WWII was a Blue Star Mother.”
The organization was founded in 1942 and was congressionally chartered in 1960.
McLean said she remembers how the other mothers understood the feeling, “to not be able to sleep at night. And to worry about the knock at the door or the doorbell.”
Now, she says, the door has been shut. McLean said the national organization sent her and another local mother a letter claiming they were insubordinate.
“What we supposedly had done to cause a ‘flagrant insubordination’ we don’t know and we have never gotten an answer to that,” said McLean.
But McLean said now dozens of others who were terminated are coming forward with similar stories. They’re organizing online by creating the Facebook page called ”Blue Star Mothers Tea Party.”
“I’m finding out that there’s moms in Maryland and California, Arizona, Kentucky,” said McLean.
She said anywhere from 75-100 other mothers are speaking out around the country.
“I’m not isolated,” said McLean.
Blue Star Mothers of America addressed these recent claims in a letter to its members nationally:
“As you may or may not be aware, some upsetting emails have been circulating among both members and non-members. These emails have portrayed anger as well as several untruths. We, as your National Executive Board (NEB), want this viral email campaign to cease and for all members to allow the NEB to deal with this egregious action. The Blue Star Mothers Governing Documents and Code of Conduct, voted on by member delegates attending convention, need to be read for an accurate understanding of the disciplinary procedures. Statements have been made about the implementation of disciplinary procedures that are inaccurate.”
National President Wendy Hoffman said since Blue Star Mothers of America is a congressionally chartered organization, bylaws dictate the process to terminate members. Hoffman said that, even recently, termination is very rare and when it does happen, it’s related to compliance issues.
“It worried me,” said Army Reserve Sgt. Dennis Lemire, who has asked the national board for transparency after hearing concerns from his fellow soldiers.
“To hear things below the surface, things weren’t as they appeared. I started to look into it,” said Lemire. “I was hearing a lot of, ‘Can you look into this? There are things going on. My mom is not getting the kind of support that she needs.’”
Lemire’s mother is an active member of the St. Paul Blue Star Mothers group. He said after talking to many active military members, the disputes only add to a soldier’s distress.
“By the way, enjoy yourself serving overseas fighting for our freedoms, while your mom isn’t allowed to have the support group that she needs here,” said Lemire.
McLean said she still isn’t sure how she ended up on the Blue Star Mothers enemy lines, but she worries the impact will be felt on the front lines with the sons and daughters serving overseas.
“It frightens me to see it imploding right now,” said McLean. “The bylaws of this organization, chartered by Congress, aren’t being followed. The mission is getting lost.”
Blue Star Mothers has approximately 10,000 members around the country.