News: Military moms are showered with appreciation
Story by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - It was an Oprah-type moment for some military moms in Hawaii.
Forty military mothers and moms-to-be whose spouses are deployed members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard, as well as the spouses of several wounded warriors, were honored during Operation Shower "You are my Sunshine," Jan. 8, 2013, at the Ka Makani Recreation Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
"It was more than I expected, and I kinda felt like I was on Oprah being showered with so much," said Tech. Sgt. Dina Maldanado, 15th Operations Support Squadron, "I didn't expect all this. It's really nice."
Operation Shower is a group baby shower where military moms and moms-to-be are treated to a lunch, doted on with more than $1,000 worth of gifts, all donations made by people and businesses across the country supporting military families. The moms also get the opportunity to meet and share stories with other military moms-to-be in similar situations.
"It's always wonderful to be a part of one of these events and have the opportunity to say thank you to the military and the moms specifically," said Holly Finchem, wife of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. "In gifting the moms, we know that we are gifting the whole family and saying thank you to the dads as well."
During a Hawaiian style lunch of a salad, grilled chicken, rice and desert, the moms spent time with guest, sponsors and other moms swapping stories about their trials and triumphs during their husbands absence.
"I love hearing their stories, where their from, how their family is growing, and I enjoy learning a bit about their individual experiences," Finchem said.
For nearly an hour after lunch, the women were showered upon with gift after gift of appreciation, most of which were surprised to the point of emotional tears.
"Military spouses by nature are proud, as well they should be," Finchem said. "With that pride, sometimes that means they are less willing to accept help and certainly would never ask for it. I do see in these rooms that you don't get that Oprah Winfrey type of reaction when a gift is given because these women are humbled by it. For that reason, it touches us even more. We know how hard they work all the time to be so independent and self-sufficient. That's why it's even more special to give these gifts."
The highlight of the event and the staple of the Operation Shower organization is their signature "Shower in a Box." Each mom received a box containing an array of unique baby products and gift items for mothers and babies that have been generously donated by companies and event sponsors.
From onesies and baby bottles to clothing, crib bedding, diaper bags and toys, the gifts go a long way toward raising the spirits of the moms-to-be, some of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience a baby shower.
"It's pretty incredible to be here and feel supported from everyone, especially at the close of this year," said Elizabeth Nixon, wife of U.S. Army Capt. Brandon Nixon, 25th Combat Aviation Battalion, who is scheduled to return any day from nearly a year-long deployment. "I'm feeling overwhelmed and grateful that there are so many people who do care and support us."
Created in 2007 by LeAnn Morrissey, chief shower officer, who identified a need for honoring military moms, specifically the ones typically holding everything together at home while their spouses serve in austere environments.
"We really try to convey that it's not just gifts, it's appreciation and a thank you," Morrissey said. "Each thing they receive is from someone from across the country that wanted to donate that item, or who wanted to provide us funds so we could give it."
This is the 28th iteration of showers the organization has put on since the first four Showers in a Box were presented nearly five years ago and the first time in Hawaii. More than 1,000 moms over that period have received a baby shower.
"We feel very showered with love. Amazing. Beautiful," said Holly Terhune, 15th Operations Support Squadron, who is seven months pregnant and husband is deployed to Afghanistan. "This is more than I could have ever imagined."