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Berggren's welcome home party turns into surprise for Blue Star Mothers

Karen Berggren presents an American flag that flew over Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin this past Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012, in honor of Central Arizona Blue Star Moms, to chapter representatives, from left: financial secretary Rose Krutcher, Doreen Berggren (her own mom) and Lisa Collins, president.<br>
Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz

Karen Berggren presents an American flag that flew over Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin this past Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012, in honor of Central Arizona Blue Star Moms, to chapter representatives, from left: financial secretary Rose Krutcher, Doreen Berggren (her own mom) and Lisa Collins, president.<br> Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz

"Behind every soldier is a Blue Star Mom."

So stated U.S. Army Capt. Karen Berggren at her July 2 welcome home party in Prescott Valley.

Her own Blue Star Mom, Doreen Berggren of Prescott Valley, said the party was about much more than celebrating Karen's return after a nine-month tour in Afghanistan.

"Karen appreciates other people," her mother said. "This is about a community that came together in anything we wanted to do in service."

The Blue Star Mothers of America's focus is on supporting U.S. troops and military veterans, said Rose Krutcher of Tempe, financial secretary for the Central Arizona Blue Star Moms.

Doreen Berggren said Central Arizona group sent hundreds of packages to Karen and her chaplain to distribute to U.S. troops around the country.

"We also sent 800 postcards that school children wrote on, to Karen to distribute," Doreen said.

She explained that the previous week, when they were running out of items to put in packages they sent out a plea for help.

"A (local) Boy Scout Troop responded with 90 boxes of cookies, and Anytime Fitness (in Prescott Valley) gave us boxes and bags full of toiletries, cookies, candies and canned goods. People I don't even know contributed," Doreen said, adding that Yavapai County Assessor Pam Pearsall and her daughter were among them.

"You're important because you rally the support of the community," Karen Berggren told the Blue Star Moms. "Your packages were the best we received."

In fact, she went on, the care packages were so good, one of her commanders "confiscated" one and left a note for her in its place.

"When packages with cookies, candy and stuffed animals came, I would remember why we were there for you guys," she said. "I don't have a husband or kids (to look at pictures of or talk to) to remind me."

The Moms fought back tears as Karen presented them with an American flag that had been flown in their honor over Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, this past Mother's Day, May 13, by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin.

She also gave them a framed certificate of appreciation from the unit, signed by its commanders.

The Operation Enduring Freedom Certificate of Appreciation to Central Arizona Blue Star Moms read:

"This certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service is presented for the outstanding and compassionate support you have provided to Combined Joint Task Force Paladin from August 2011 through May 2012. You have my sincerest appreciation for your exemplary support and dedication which significantly improved the morale and welfare of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of Combined Joint Task Force Paladin. Your unwavering devotion to the men and women of the United States Military demonstrates the highest standards of selflessness and patriotism and reflects great credit upon yourselves and the United States of America." Signed by Col. Leo E. Bradley, U.S. Army Commander, and Command Sergeant Major Michael J. Woods.

Berggren serves as a command judge advocate for CJTFP, a counter-IED (improvised operations explosive device) unit. They respond to the hostile acts of Iraqi insurgents in Afghanistan.

"It's one of the most important fights in Afghanistan," Berggren said.

She advises on "anything from misconduct to operations" in the U.S. military dealings with hostile forces. She has been on active duty for 3.5 years, and now is stationed in Fort Bragg, Calif.

Expressing her depth of feeling and appreciation to the group was not easy for Berggren.

"It's easy to articulate law, but it's really difficult for me to talk to people," she said.

Still, she was able to tell the Blue Star Moms, "You guys as individuals and as an organization are amazing."

For more information, visit www.BlueStarMothers.org or www.cazbluestarmoms.org.

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