By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

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.

Comments (32)
  1. besen says:

    another example of congress and out goverment out of controll its sad that to governet that we were trained to protect wont give the help needed .

    where would congress be if we the tax payers and the soldiers decided to NOT protect or support them anymore ?

    1. Beej West says:

      The article doesn’t state that the government is causing problems, but, the executive board of the organization.
      My father’s mom was the first South Carolina 8 Blue Stars Mother, in 1944, with 7 sons and one daughter in the military at one time. Of those 8, only one fell on the battlefield, and that was at Normandy. It is sad to think that moms at home are having trouble like this with a group that is supposed to be helping.
      (btw, I am former Navy, myself)

      1. Tara says:

        I am one of the “terminated” mom’s they suspended me 2 weeks before my son left on his 3rd deployment, the time when I needed the group the most. They also told our whole chapter they could not speak to us or have any contact with us, thankfully, some of them knew better, and have remained our friends, but others, a year later will still not speak to us.

    2. Dale Lepore says:

      I too am a mother who has been terminated. I have been a member at large for a good number of years, and just last year there was a Chapter formed in my area. So I joined there, then of course, national’s year was different then ours, so we owed our dues again. No problem. I paid it. National is saying that our Chapter doesn’t know what they are doig. Well help them out then. I am the Blue to Gold Liaison and had to go through Judy to have 1 banner already sent because I can’t get on the website. What do we tell the grieving parents, whn we can’t get a banner, due to this crap. Is Wendy goig to send banners to all the soldiers that are killed. Ask Naional that for me. I know what protocol is, since I a hold an office in the VFW, so veterans issues and problems are high on me list. Thank yout

  2. Elmo says:

    Do you think our Government really cares about the Vets? 10% of the prison population in our Country are Vets? And there are 2.4 million in prison. Now you do the math. What is 10%?

    1. Nancy says:

      and a very large number of homeless are also vets……..why is this

  3. tom says:

    Another example of power hungry leaders throwing their authority around and making up stories to fire people. This type of thing happens all the time in all businesses. If they don’t like you they fire you. I believe all states and all businesses and organizations should have a 3X warning system on your 3rd strike your out. But as in minnesota they don’t like you , bye bye. no matter what. Sad in this day and age to fire people who work hard and have for a organization for years and they don’t like you its out the door. bad business i say.

    1. Merinda Mullins says:

      The sad thing is they are terminating VOLUNTEERS.. Yes, we all are volunteers, put our lives and finances into this because we love our children and all those who serve and this is the thanks we get from power hungry people.

    2. Justis says:

      There is a 3x warning system in business and it’s usually called a Union. BUT don’t worry, the Republican business people are trying to get rid of the unions also.

  4. Peg McCarthy says:

    I am one of the BSM from MD that Cindy referred to. If you have questions, please check out “Blue Star Mother Tea Party” on Facebook. If you know a BSM with this or a similar story, send them this link. Thanks!

    1. Becky Davis says:

      Good grief. You stop watching for a while and all heck breaks loose. If they are booting Moms without due process heads should roll. Peg please keep me up to date on this.
      Becky D Maine

  5. Patricia Hebb says:

    I was not terminated but my group was. I live far from any group so I was on my own. Both sons went to Iraq. The second time I had the support of a group of us Moms who are there for each other but can’t be part of the “official” BSMs. The problem is that there are women in the “official” group that can say anything they want to to anyone but if you stand up for your rights you are targeted. Then they want to friend you on Facebook!

  6. Merinda Mullins says:

    I too was a member of this organization and these are just some of the problems that members have been facing for many years. When the members start asking for accountability, transparency and the truth then they become targets. What the board seems to forget is they were members once too, they were one of the mothers looking for support and then when they got an ounce of power they took control and crushed those who needed it the most.

    I left before I was terminated, I knew I was under the scope and figured why remain a member of something that is only going to take your money and not support you or the mission at all.

    Blue Star Mothers of America Inc. was chartered as a Veterans Service Organization. How about we get some people to ask for financial statements that show where they are “Supporting” the mission.

    The National Board of the org. says that the funds that come into them “national” does not have to be spent on that, it is for “National” and it is up to the chapters to serve the mission.

    I have worked in the Non- Profit sector for many years and this is not true. The National board and executive office are basically the #1 chapter, it is not a separate entity and must abide by the same rules (Tax Laws) as other chapters.

    1. Becky Davis says:

      I left the organization several years ago. I probably should have stayed and fought but I really didn’t like the direction that the NEB was going and just left. I had 3 sons serving and almost always had someone deployed. I really didn’t want to face war on everywhere I turned.

  7. mmm says:

    Merinda and others — What can be done to ensure that volunteers are not subjected to this treatment? Is there something the general population can do? How can we help?

    This is an appalling example of power mongering. It should not be toloerated.

    1. Peg McCarthy says:

      First – thank you for wanting to help the many Moms who have been a victim of this type of “leadership?”.

      Please contact Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. with your concerns for us, requesting an immediate outside, independent review of all suspensions/terminations under the current National President.

  8. Sharon Grassi says:

    I am the founding member and past president of my Blue Star chapter in Arizona. I was terminated from my chapter 5 days after submitting a letter of no confidence to my board. They were outside of our national by laws and had numerous other problems.
    1 day I was a member in good standing and 5 days after I submitted my letter I was deemed a “threat to the safety and security of our member” and had to be immediately removed.
    I assumed our national chapter would be concerned but our national president told me to quit asking for help from her – I was suspended and help was not available to me. They refused to review my allegations.

  9. Beth says:

    greed and avarice in the world of volunteers?? That’s so business-like…..who would have thought it could happen here?? In America???

    Seriously though, I think everyone needs to stand up and shout about this. As cozy and comfy as we are, we are still AT WAR, and our service members and those who love them deserve respect.
    This isn’t the playground, we are all in it together until every last soldier comes home!! GIVE ‘EM HELL LADIES!!

    1. Peg McCarthy says:

      Yes, Beth, we are still at war and that is something I think “non-military” citizens tend to forget. It’s the old “out of sight, out of mind”. We Moms still continue to support our kids and our military despite all of this stuff. They are our priority!

      But those of us who have fallen prey to the current National Executive Board of the organization want what our children fight for – our due process.

      Please contact Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. with your concerns for us, requesting an immediate outside, independent review of all suspensions/terminations under the current National President.

      again, thank you for your concern and support!

  10. Jake says:

    Contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators, if enough people are heard, something should get done.

  11. Patricia Hebb says:

    Also remember that even when our sons and daughters come home they need our support so we who love them need that support also. We are not getting it from the very group that should be there.

    I expressed a view once that the current National President did not like and she told me that if I could not stand behind the troops that I should stand in front of them. I had to wait to respond and when I did I told her that I not only stand behind them but WITH them. That I had been preparing for my yearly Army Guard training. Most in the group knew I was in the Army myself but obviously she did not. She never responded back. It went down hill from there. It has been painful and emotional.

    One last thing about me. My Grandmother was a Blue Star Mother and when one of her sons was killed became a Gold Star Mother. So my roots with this organization go way back.

    So if you want to help then do speak up and ask for an accounting. There are too many horror stories out here. It is NOT just a few. They stretch from Coast to Coast and North and South. PEACE AND HONOR – Pat

  12. Ellie says:

    My chapter was one of the California chapters that was suspended. The National president intervened in local chapter questions (without the knowledge of the National Executive Board (NEB) and blew it out of proportion and would not allow the chapter to come to an equitable solution through Roberts Rules of Order and the will of the local membership. The NP suspended the chapter without due process and the approval of the National Executive Board (in violation of the bylaws) for nearly a month which caused great harm financially and affected our status in the community, and our ability to carry out our projects to support our troops. This has nearly destroyed the chapter.

    I was on the National Executive Board (elected by the membership twice) and spoke up. I was the next one targeted and expelled for Flagrant Insubordination. That same meeting another elected NEB member was terminated. So the NP had two spots to fill with her friends. This also meant that I could not return to my local chapter or any other chapter. Like the other ladies above, I spent thousands of volunteer hours in supporting the troops and their families.

    Another NEB member who has spoken up, was recently placed on a 9 month disiplinary action for wearing a red coat on a cold day with her white BSMA suit, and not getting the NP’s permission to attend a chapter meeting in a neighboring town. For goodness sakes—–this is a volunteer organization.

    It would seem that due process and free speech and the US Constitution would be something a congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization would hold in high esteem—but apparently not this one.

    Please write your congressmen. I have heard from many people across the nation of similar circumstances and abuses from this organization. It is not a sinle isolated incident. It is the norm, not the exception. There is so much more, but not enough time and space to go into it here.

  13. Janet says:

    Local leadership and the NEB only follow the guidelines when it meets their own agenda. So many wonderful mothers of sons and daughters serving have been wronged. Maybe public awareness will bring attention to ‘leadership’ gone awry. Too many hard working individuals have been slandered.

  14. Richard Schellenger, Vsm A 4the Generation Blue Star says:

    It was not just the Moms and Mothers that were bounced! What does it tell you when we in America can not support our Sons and Daughters, Husbands and Wives that are in the Service? Somehow someone forgot what we are all about!!

  15. Jean Duane says:

    This is sad, as founding MN Chapter 1 President, Founding Department of MN President and having served on the National Board from 2004-2007 I am saddened that these issues are taking place with in the organization. For personal reasons, which are unrelated to any issues taking place with in the organization I have not renewed my membership for the past two years. The honor of being a Blue Star Mother is a honor only a son or daughter can give their Mother…no organization can take this honor away from them….ladies remember once a Blue Star Mother, always a Blue Star Mother….stay the course with continuing to support our Troops & Veterans via any avenue it takes…our troops don’t give up and neither do their moms!

    1. Janet says:

      Thank you for pointing out that any military mother is a Blue Star Mom. I have never once felt I wasn’t, but so many group being a BSM with the organization. No one can take away the pride you have over your son/daughter who is serving. My blue star banner is on my front door and my silver start banner is in our front bow-window.

      1. Christine Reinhardt says:

        You are so right Jean!!! It IS our children that give us that honor!!

  16. Dennis LeMire says:

    I am Dennis LeMire, the guy quoted in the video. In addition to what you see in the interview, I contacted the MN Blue Star Mothers President, Pattie Kelley and the National President Wendy Hoffman myself. As a Veterans support group, you would think the voices of our soldiers would be heard. Instead I was told that our soldier’s mothers were lying and I would not be heard in the BSM organization. I was censored on the BSM Facebook page and also in their chapter meetings.

    Last summer I had dozens of soldiers contact Pattie Kelley to express their issues with the treatment these mothers have been getting and she ignored all of them. So much for supporting the Vets.

    1. Sharon Grassi says:

      I really don’t know what this organization is here for if we have forgotten to listen to and support our military and each other. When I was president of my AZ chapter, we had conflicts, we dealt with conflicts, but we never suspended or terminated any mother.
      Dennis, you tell those soldiers that their moms have some battle buddies of their own right now. More than a few military moms have their backs. You guys have enough to worry about, we’ve got it from here.

      1. Christine Reinhardt says:

        Sharon I so agree with you!! I know I have my son’s back and everyone else I can stand up for too! I told my son that if they started sending the moms over there….we would kick some butt to protect our kids!!! Organization or not, we ARE Blue Star Moms!!!

  17. Jan Drahota says:

    I was part of the Blue Star Mothers group with Cindy. She was welcoming and kind and her tireless efforts to help with our military sons and daughters and in particular Gold Star families should be honored. I never understood the termination and thought it was uncalled for. It was very disappointing that the group was about supporting each other and our military children and ended up with internal struggles that took away too much from why we went there. A lot of women left over time, I did not pursue a Blue Star Moms group after I moved. And whose loss is it – us and our military kids. I hope this is a wake up call.

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