When Janet Broussard’s son was deployed to Iraq for the first time in 2004, she began searching for somewhere local to turn to for support. When she couldn’t find anything close to home, she became a member of the national Blue Star Mothers of America, an organization for mothers and guardians with children who have served in the military. After that, she decided to found a chapter here in Baton Rouge.
Today, the organization has grown to have five active chapters in Louisiana. Broussard serves as president of the Blue Star Mothers of Louisiana Chapter 1 and has also previously served at the national level as first vice president for a year.
The local chapter holds several events for military families throughout the year, including the upcoming Memorial Day Garden of the Flags and Ceremony. The event honors Louisiana natives who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country. Each year, the public is invited to help plant 11,000 American flags on the grounds of the Louisiana State Capitol.bluestarmoms.net
“I got the idea for Garden of the Flags from a friend that lives in Boston, where they do something similar. So about three years ago, I talked to our group and said, ‘Let’s plant 10,000 flags.’ And of course, my group looked at me like, ‘How are we ever going to plant 10,000 flags?’ But the community came together, everybody showed up, and we had them planted in a couple hours.
Since then, the event has grown [and we now plant 11,000 flags]. Last year, the Louisiana National Guard added a great touch to it. They marched and carried in our flags—as a tribute to the fallen—from LSU to the State Capitol, which is a six-mile march.
A lot of kids come out to the event, and it is just a way for people to remember what Memorial Day is all about. It’s not about the sales. It’s not about the barbecues—although that is what they fought for, for us to have things like that. It’s about remembering our fallen.
We do the planting on Friday on Memorial Day weekend, and then on Saturday we have a ceremony where we read the names of the fallen from 9/11 to the current day. We invite those families of the fallen to come out and read their name and plant a flag in their memory.
One mom told me recently that she only hears her son’s name three times a year—at our wreath ceremony in December, at our luncheon [in April] and then on Memorial Day. Our theme this year is ‘Say Their Name.’”
This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.