The most difficult duty that Ann Ricard does, as president of Midlands Blue Star Mothers, is to comfort and support Gold Star Mothers.
Blue Star Mothers have sons or daughters in the military. Gold Star Mothers have lost a son or daughter in the military.
It is a passage that occurs all too often.
"It has happened many times," Ricard said. "You just have to toughen up and do it. Then, you cry all the way home."
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But Ricard, of Leesville, and her organization do much other work to support veterans and active-duty personnel.
Two weeks ago, the Blue Star Mothers chapter assisted Vietnam veterans who were displaying a traveling exhibition of the Vietnam War memorial wall. Sometimes, the group sees off troops at the airport. They pack "care" packages. They raise money for veteran's groups at the Patriots Ball.
The list goes on.
"Anytime anybody needs labor, we'll be there," Ricard says.
After being deployed to Iraq with the S.C. National Guard in 2003, Ricard's son, Richard, is back safe at home. So why does she continue to serve?
"When you are with these mothers who have lost children you realize that you have to give back," she said.
"We have worked side by side with our Vietnam veterans to make sure our kids aren't treated the way they were. And we have to take care of our Korean and World War II veterans while we still have them."
_- Jeff Wilkinson, staff writer