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By Kaylin Kerstner - Special to the Press Star
A patriotic theme is apparent throughout the room - in the thick red carpeting, bold blue curtains, adorned couch and hanging afghan. Military photographs decorate the wall and the afternoon sun shines on a blue star banner hanging in the window. Annette Meyer gingerly runs her fingers over a handmade commemorative quilt displayed on the wall of her home, honoring her son, Luke Herbst, who was stationed in Baghdad for a year (March 2004-2005) and currently is serving in Texas. This is Meyer's "military room."
Meyer distributes Christian dog tags to families and soldiers, inscribed with the scripture Joshua 1:9, "I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go." Meyer says, "Since I have been through this difficult war trial with my son, my heart has a burden to reach out to the neighborhood military families. Through this ministry, I share with them the comfort that the Lord has given to me."
"The Faith of the American Soldier," written by Stephen Mansfield, inspired Meyer to research the dog tags online and purchase them for area parents. "Mothers and fathers don't even take them off," Meyer emphasized. "One mother said she wouldn't until her son returned home."
"These dog tags are not lucky charms, but a reminder of who to turn to - our Lord Jesus Christ for strength and courage," Meyer affirms. Created by world-class Christian athlete Kenny Vaughan, hundreds of thousands of America's military servicemen and women carry tokens of his faith lesson into battle. Thus far, 620,000 soldiers worldwide wear them. More than a million Americans wear the Shields of Strength dog tags that Vaughan first created to help him remember what God taught him about the power of faith in the face of adversity.
Subtle signs along the way have uplifted Meyer and fueled her passion for this ministry. She explains, "To encourage my son, I sent him stanzas of 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus.' The next day at church we sang that song and the pastor went on to tell its history."
Meyer recollects another defining moment more recently, "My husband and I were riding to church on our Harley and I was admiring the flags in Readfield when the Lord gave me this thought; 'Why don't you sell dog tags at Caledonia Day?'" With only thirteen days to prepare, Meyer continued to pray and was enlightened by a scripture passage at her church, 'not by power, not by might, but by the spirit,' in reference to Zechariah 4:5-7.
Meyer is a blue star mom by the Lord's leading. One morning around the Fourth of July, Annette prayed, "Lord, should I look into this blue star banner?" The following day, the family went to visit Luke in Texas. Stopping at a wayside, Meyer remembers, "I was looking at an Abraham Lincoln sign and when I turned around I saw a Blue Star Memorial Highway sign - a literal sign that He wanted me to help somehow." That same weekend, the family watched "Saving Private Ryan" and Meyer noted a beginning scene when the mother learns her three sons died - in the window was a blue star banner.
Back in World War I, families displayed a blue star service banner in their window to let others know they had a loved one serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The blue star banner is now an American tradition, reminding us that war touches every neighborhood in our land.
When a soldier puts on his or her combat uniform the family also puts it on. It is a sacrifice for both the soldier and the family.
In everything, Meyer places her trust in God. "I pray, 'Lord, You have to lead me because I want You to have the Glory.'" She also admits, "I'm on my knees a lot."
Meyer radiates joy and laughs often, making those around her feel completely at ease. "I feel like I'm in Jesus' arms right now," she beams.
Meyer is a member of S.O.S. (Supporting Our Soldiers) of New London. The group originally started out creating stamped cards to show support for the soldiers in our area going to Iraq. S.O.S. then expanded to include soldiers' wives, husbands and parents. In May 2005, they emerged with Shields of Strength dog tags. S.O.S. also receives monetary donations to pay for tags for the soldiers themselves.
Suggestions for Donated Items
Powdered Gatorade, Tang, sweetened Kool-Aid
Stationery supplies, pens, papers, envelopes - no stamps needed in Kuwait
Snacks, chips in containers - Cracker Jack, beef jerky, Slim Jims, crackers
and canned cheese, nuts and seeds, trail mix, salsa
Instant oatmeal, coffee, tea, cocoa (small indiv. packets)
Sweets - M&Ms, Little Debbies, Rice Krispie treats, dry cereal, dried fruit,
power bars, gum, Tootsie Rolls, granola bars, lollipops, hard candy. Items
containing chocolate chips are fine. Non-meltable chocolate.
Ramen noodles and packaged soups
Soft cover books, magazines
Hometown papers - (Press-Star is donating)
CDs and DVDs
Puzzles, cards, cribbage boards, journals, crossword puzzles, yo-yos, frisbees, dart boards, hackie sacks
Zip-Loc bags of all sizes
Personal items - shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, deodorant, tube shaving cream, disposable razors.
*Cash donations* If you would like to help with the postage all money collected will go 100% towards this.