CLAYTON — Once a month, about a dozen local women gather for dinner. But this is not your typical meet-up. The common denominator among these women is that each has a son or two fighting for our country.
Through laughter, tears and prayers, these military moms provide each other with a unique support system. They call themselves the Marine Moms of Johnston County.
The group began almost four years ago after a chance meeting between Mary Bolton and LuAnne Reynolds.
Bolton was treating her son, Jason Breeden, to a farewell lunch before sending him off to Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.
We parked next to a car with a Marine Corps sticker on the window, Bolton recalled.
The car belonged to Reynolds. We started talking and made plans to meet up, Bolton said.
Since then, the groups membership has grown steadily through word of mouth. The meetings have no agenda, and moms with sons in other branches of the military may attend too. The women meet every month at a different local restaurant to share food, conversation and support.
Every member has a son who has served one or more deployments to Afghanistan.
Nobody really understands what a military parent is going through, said Bolton, who has another son, Michael Bolton, in the Marine Corps.
I was a basket case at first, Bolton said. When theyre deployed, its so easy to think about the negative. With this group, I know I can laugh, receive prayers and words of encouragement.
Archer Lodge resident Ellen Barnes has been attending the dinners since her son, Blake, entered boot camp three years ago. Weve all shared things that have never left this table, Barnes said. Its not just boys but the entire family that goes through this experience.
The moms said shipping a son off to war elicits much different emotions than sending one to college.
This group has been like a family to me during a time when I really needed it, said Alison Kilgore.
Her son, Edward Beattie, just returned from his second stint in Afghanistan and has reenlisted in the Marine Corps for another four years.
Carolyn Fitzgerald takes comfort in knowing that others share her fears and concerns about her two sons, Daniel and Rick. To know that these girls are also praying for my son, thats important to me, she said. You know they really understand you because they know the worry and anxiety that you are going through.
For more information about the military moms, call Mary Bolton at 919-901-9261.