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|Local group serves as resource for military friends, families|
Sandra Hearn and Tammy Sebren share a bond they will possess forever thanks to Blue Star Mothers of Northeast Louisiana.
Blue Star is an organization that provides emotional support and the like for people dealing with a friend or relative who was killed in action or severely injured serving in the U.S. military.
Hearn's and Sebren's sons were injured serving in Iraq and each faced numerous hurdles in receiving the medical treatment they needed for brain injuries and severe post traumatic stress disorder.
Hearn's son, Jacob, a Marine, took his first tour in Iraq when he was only 17 years old. He's 21 now, and currently is seeking medical treatment at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina.
Sebren has two sons who were injured serving in the Army in Iraq. Her oldest son, Dustin, 27, is receiving treatment at Fort Hood in Texas. Her other son, Chase, 25, has been out of the Army since 2005 due to his injuries. Today, he is "on the road to recovery," Sebren said.
All three soldiers were injured in bomb explosions.
"Slowly but surely we started seeing problems where he couldn't remember things," Sebren said. "We had more and more things go wrong, and it wasn't immediately after the explosion, it was about six months after, and it just got worse."
"It's not something a mom wants to hear," she said.
Hearn said her family had to contact numerous sources, even the White House, for her son to receive treatment.
"It's kind of depressing," Hearn said.
"We've had a lot of snafus with Jacob's treatment," Hearn said, which was exacerbated due to an error when documenting his personal information.
Currently president of Blue Star Mothers of Northeast Louisiana, Hearn originally planned to lessen her duties with the group. But after her son's injury, she needed the organization even more.
"I needed that support group because they were the only ones who understood what I was going through," Hearn said. "They all understand war, and if they don't have a son currently in it, they either will, or they have had. When Tammy joined the group, I didn't feel like I was alone. I didn't want to go to the meetings and talk about injuries because the other moms don't want that fear of having their son injured. When Tammy joined, I had someone who understood these brain injuries and the disabilities that's hard for these men and women to handle. As a mom, it's really hard to handle because you're almost dealing with a child again."
Hearn said she constantly has to call her son and remind him about appointments and other issues. Recently, he left Camp LeJeune to visit a friend two hours away. It took Jacob nine hours to return because he couldn't remember how to get back to his base, Hearn said.
"I would think the military would assign somebody to help them, but they don't," she said. "So here we are hundreds of miles away from them, having to take care of them because nobody is going to look after them like mom."
When her youngest son was discharged from the Army, Sebren watched his quality of life go downhill.
"He went through major depression," she said. "Things start happening to them and they are not themselves and they don't even know what's happening to them. They don't know where they fit in when they come back. They're gone four years and they have to make a whole readjustment into the civilian world. The average person doesn't understand what I mean when I say that. They'll start having problems maybe six months down the road. They can't hold jobs because they're depressed."
Hearn added, "You'd think we would have learned from Vietnam to take care of them. Like Tammy's son, he's out and now all of a sudden he's not OK, and he's having to turn and go back to the military for help. It's not an easy process. Once you've been dumped out of the system, it's not easy to turn around and fight and get what you need. That's the hard part. My son is still in (the military) and to get what we need for him is very frustrating. I've had to go to some pretty high-ranking people to get stuff done for my son. You shouldn't have to worry about this for your child."
Both women say having other families in the area to provide support has been a blessing.
The local chapter of Blue Star Mothers has been meeting for the last two years. However, the group's biggest growth has been since November.
They meet the second Tuesday of every month at Paul Hargrove's office in West Monroe, located at 103 Regency Place.
"We support the troops big time," Hearn said. "We send boxes to them and we're always in need of money for postage, and items for the troops. We support all family members and even friends (of soldiers) who need support. Our organization is for everyone involved in this situation. Anyone who needs the support is welcome."
Sebren said the group also is an excellent resource center for families in the same situation. They know who to contact to make sure a soldier gets proper medical treatment as well as other avenues of help.
Families and friends of soldiers who have served in the military, or those currently serving, are welcome to attend the meetings.
For more information about the group, call Sebren at 282-2209.