Blue Star Voices
Beaufort, South Carolina
Sophie Roth-Douquet won an art contest sponsored by the Armed Services YMCA with this drawing, which hung in the U.S. Capitol in 2009. Image courtesy of Roth-Douquet family
At the event announcing Blue Star Museums in San Diego on May 24, we stood on the steps of the San Diego Museum of Art, which sported a banner for their exhibit of Greek antiquities that said "Heroes." That struck me as appopriate, because on that day Rocco Landesman and the NEA and the Blue Star Museums were---and are---my heroes. This program of free museums for military families over the summer is just extraordinary.
When Joan Shigekawa of the NEA first approached me saying that the NEA was interested in developing ideas to support military families, the idea of museums opening their doors to our families was one we came up with, and I have to admit I realized it was a lot to ask for. When the NEA embraced the idea and sent out the letters asking for participation, and then the response was so phenomenal---now more than 700 museums participating ---I just about felt that I could cry.
See, I really believe in museums. I think they are more than just a nice way to spend an afternoon. I think they can broaden horizons, make the world bigger, help us understand our place in it. Museums can inspire us, they can nourish us. And frankly, nearly nine years into war and multiple deployments, military families could use a little nourishing.
My own children came with me to San Diego. My son is eight, and my daughter is twelve. They are among the nearly one million U.S. children who have sent at least one parent to war. My husband is in Afghanistan now, eight months through a one-year deployment. This is his third combat deployment in these wars, and we miss him every day. But I know my children felt special that the museums are opening the doors to them and to children like them, who are serving in their own way. My son had his sketch book open the whole visit, and drew what he saw. This is a habit we got started when we were stationed in Europe, and we find it's a great way to engage with art. He particularly likes the warriors, lions, and heroic sculptures. He was a big fan of the baby ducks in the sculpture garden pools as well. My daughter likes the hands-on exhibits.
We've got a long road trip this summer, to help the time move more quickly until my husband returns, from the South Carolina low country up to Canada, and we'll be stopping in museums all along the way. Blue Star Museums makes me feel more excited about the trip, and it makes me feel good as a mother that I have so much I'll be able to share with my children. It is changing what could have been the hardest part of this year apart into a family adventure.