Behind the Blue-Star Banner is the perfect book for any book club, Bible study, service organization, military group, leadership staff or deployment support group. This book provides insight and compassion to those outside the military community seeking to better understand the experiences of military families as well as understanding and encouragement to those experiencing deployment in their own families. And you can purchase this book in bulk for these purposes at a $4/book discount right here on this site! (Enter discount code BULK on any 10-book order to receive each book for $10.95.)
Some people who might benefit from reading Behind the Blue-Star Banner corporately:
- Military families
- Commanders in military communities
- Ministry leaders in churches located in military towns
- Community leaders who serve military families
- Book club members who desire to better understand the life of a military family and a spouse on the home front during deployment. This book can be broken down to accommodate monthly book clubs (members would need to read one chapter per day, five days per week to finish this book in one month), quarterly book clubs (members would need to read one chapter per week to complete the book in 18 weeks) or any other timeline a club might implement.
Chapter Discussion Questions
Note: If you are a military spouse experiencing deployment on the home front, please see the discussion questions posted in the Deployment Support Group resources page. The questions below are intended for those not currently serving on the home front of a deployment.
Chapter One: Goodbyes
1. Though you may not have faced a military deployment, you have faced your own life “deployments” — long-lasting trials that required endurance and a positive attitude to tackle. What are your “deployments”? How do you feel as they begin? What gets you through them? What are your coping techniques?
2. For the first few days of her own deployment, Michelle found herself in the midst of uncharacteristic depression. Was depression an acceptable response to her situation? If so, why? If not, how should she have reacted instead?
3. What are some ways that you can help and encourage others beginning military deployments or other life “deployments”?
Chapter Two: Adjustment
1. For Michelle, adjustment meant staying busy and looking forward. How do you adjust to new and challenging life situations?
2. What is the most difficult part of adjustment?
3. How long can an adjustment period justifiably last? What notifies others that an adjustment period has ended? How is a person’s life different when he has “adjusted” to a life situation?
4. What are some ways you can help others in the midst of their own life adjustments?
Chapter Three: Struggle
1. Three months after her trial began, Michelle found herself really struggling, both mentally and emotionally. How do you react to trials once the shock of the trial is over and you’ve adjusted to life with this trial as a part of it?
2. What kind of struggles do you face as you confront your trial?
3. On pages 43 to 45, Michelle discusses her internal dilemma: How can she be at the same time transparent about her struggles on the home front and still be supportive of a husband at war? Is it possible to be both transparent and supportive? Does one have to trump the other? Is one value more important? When have you faced issues in your own life that you felt tore you between two values? Which value won out? How did you balance them? How did you choose?
4. What is the difference between happiness and joy? Is it possible to be one without the other? How do each of them dictate your response to a life challenge?
5. How can you support military families in the midst of the “struggle” part of deployment?
6. How can you support friends and family in the midst of the “struggle” of their own life deployments and trials?
Chapter Four: Solitude
1. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “solitude” as: “ 1. The state or quality of being alone or remote from others. 2. A lonely or secluded place.” When have you experienced a period of solitude in your life?
2. When Michelle felt her baby kick for the very first time, she immediately felt lonely and depressed because the father of her child couldn’t experience that magic moment with her. How could Michelle have viewed this situation differently in order to stay positive and healthy for her husband?
3. One of the traps of overcoming trials is falling into ungratefulness. In the midst of a trial, you can convince yourself that it’s “all about me.” And when others stop to assist you, you’re drowning so deep in your own woes that you don’t take the time to appreciate their assistance. Which Teresas and Todds in your own life have you taken for granted? When have you overlooked the assistance of others and failed to be grateful for those people in your life?
4. Who in your life needs a Todd or Teresa to encourage her, look out for her, love on her and keep her company? How can you be there for him or her during a lonely time in his life?
Chapter Five: Sacrifice
1. How do you define sacrifice? What does it mean to you?
2. What sacrifices have you made in your own life? Why do you sacrifice?
3. In Michelle’s December 23 News-Miner column on page 73, she discusses her new view of sacrifice as a means to grow closer to the character of Christ. How can you view your sacrifice as an opportunity to grow instead of a trial to endure?
4. How can we serve others making sacrifices for us? How can we serve friends and family making sacrifices for each other? How can we serve military families making sacrifice for our freedom and protection?
Chapter Six: Busyness
1. In January, Michelle used busyness to help her cope with her husband’s absence. Was this a healthy choice? Why or why not? What could she have done instead to cope with her husband’s deployment?
2. In the middle of her deployment, Michelle realized that she was spending her family’s hard-earned money foolishly. Do you have a budget? Does it go out the window when you face an extended trial of some sort? What financial traps do you fall into when you face life deployments? Comfort foods? Retail therapy? How can better budgeting during life trials relieve outside stress?
3. Life’s trials can put stress not only on you, but on your relationships with others. On pages 84 and 85, Michelle takes out her deployment frustrations on her husband. In what ways can we objectify our trials so that we don’t blame others for them? How can we prevent ourselves from breeding bitterness in the face of adversity?
4. In Chapter Six, Michelle and Matt take a few moments out of their day to try and help a family affected not only by the death of a loved one, but also a house fire that burned all their memories of their soldier. In what ways can you serve others in the midst of your own adversity? How does serving others change your own perspective?
Chapter Seven: Loneliness
1. It’s common to feel lonely when facing life’s trials, even if you are surrounded by friends and family 24 hours a day. When do you physically feel the most lonely? Is there a certain time of day? A certain event in the day that reminds you of your loneliness? A certain atmosphere? A certain time of year? How do you confront that loneliness?
2. Is it okay to feel lonely during life trials? Why or why not?
3. Identify three people in your life or your community who might be experiencing loneliness. How can you serve them? How can you be there for them?
Chapter Eight: Preparations
1. In the middle of our own joy and preparations, we are often faced with the reality of trials — not everyone makes them through them alive. Michelle took a break from her life preparations to attend the memorial service of Joshua Pearce and pay tribute to him for his sacrifices. How can you be sure to pause in the middle of your own life excitements to honor others serving and sacrificing for you?
2. Michelle spent the month of March physically preparing for her husband’s R&R. How do you mentally prepare for breakthroughs in your trial? How do you view those respite moments — the peaceful times in the midst of tumult that allow you to emotionally breathe for a moment?
3. R&R is a special time for every soldier and his family. How can you or your organization assist and bless a soldier home on R&R with his family? Providing childcare and meals for couples and families is one great way to help out.
Chapter Nine: Advent
1. In April, Michelle and Matt welcome their child into the world. What “advent” or coming event do you have to look forward to?
2. The arrival of Connor James was Michelle’s “bright spot” in the middle of a tough deployment. The expectation of his arrival was often Michelle’s driving force in moving forward and embracing her trial. What can you focus on to get you through your life trials?
3. For Michelle, a baby changed everything, from her routine during deployment to her expectations. What big life events change the way you think and feel about life and the trials you face?
4. How can you assist other women and men acting as single parents during deployment? What would be most helpful to them? How can you provide that?
Chapter Ten: Chaos
1. How can you view life chaos in a positive light?
2. How can you use the nature of chaos to move you to the other side of a trial?
3. Michelle sometimes deliberately creates chaos in her own life to keep it exciting and keep her moving; people on the move don’t have time to wallow in their own pity. What methods do you use to prevent yourself from falling into the pity trap?
4. What does Memorial Day mean to you? How do you celebrate it? What activities are available in your area on that day? How can you make Memorial Day meaningful for yourself and your family?
5. On Memorial Day of 2006, Matt lost one of his greatest medics to sniper fire in Iraq. What losses have you faced in the middle of your own deployments? How do you handle them? How do you serve others impacted by them?
6. On Memorial Day and throughout the year, how can you serve others, like Jeremy Loveless, who are so deservedly honored on that day? How can you serve the families of those who have lost loved ones? How can you use those losses to teach your families and communities about sacrifice and service? How can you use them to teach them about gratitude?
Chapter Eleven: Coping
1. How do you cope with life’s losses?
2. How do you honor the memory of those lost?
3. How can you help families of those who have experienced loss to cope?
4. How can you better honor and serve military families who have lost loved ones in combat?
Chapter Twelve: Devastation
1. After 12 months of overcoming the challenges of deployment on the home front, Michelle was notified just 10 days shy of her anticipated reunion with her husband that his unit was being extended in Iraq for four more months. How do you deal with the unexpected and sometimes devastating developments in the middle of your trial?
2. When she heard the news that her husband was being extended in Iraq, Michelle temporarily fell apart. Analyze her reaction to the news. How would you have reacted? How should she have reacted?
3. Sometimes our trials focus on us. But sometimes, they focus on another person. Michelle’s trial was based around the fact that her husband was facing bigger trials of his own in a war zone in another country. How can we wait “patiently behind the blue-star banner” while our loved ones endure trials? How can we support them from where we stand?
4. Last year, the Department of Defense extended the standard length of Army deployments from 12 months to 15 months. That left thousands of families in the same situation as Michelle, bracing themselves for an additional three months of deployment when they only expected to face 12. How can you serve those families? How can you encourage them, especially in the last and hardest three months of their journeys to reunion?
Chapter Thirteen: Lemonade
1. Michelle chooses to squeeze her life lemons into lemonade by planning Prom at the Pump House and Tea Party with Ellie Kay. How can you make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt?
2. Michelle and her friends created a list of all the positive aspects of the Stryker deployment. What would be on your list of positive aspects of facing your life trials?
3. Throughout her 16 months on the home front, Michelle uses humor to look on the bright side. She sends Top 10 lists home to her families and documents all her humorous moments in e-mails. How can you choose to see the humor in life? Does being able to laugh at yourself help you?
4. How can you specifically serve military families and help them to choose joy in the midst of adversity?
Chapter Fourteen: Blessings
1. Michelle and her family were greatly blessed by the community of Fairbanks, Alaska, during deployment. The community and the post offered them motivational speakers, free childcare, free potlucks, free counseling and all the emotional support they could ask for. How can you be a blessing to someone else in the middle of deployment? How can your community be a blessing to those who serve our country and their families?
2. What blessings do you have in your own life? Do you ever take them for granted? How can you be deliberate about being thankful for those blessings? How does your gratitude then shift your perspective?
3. On page 193, Michelle talks about seeing light all through the tunnel, not just at the end of it. How is that perspective helpful in dealing with life deployments? What light shines all through your tunnel, if you are just willing to see it and to choose it?
Chapter Fifteen: Gratitude
1. What does gratitude mean to you?
2. Who are you thankful for in your own life? Who do you need to take time to thank today?
3. How can you be grateful for your circumstances? How can you be grateful for the people who come into your life because of your circumstances?
4. Who sets an example of gratitude for you?
5. How can you show your gratitude to those who serve?
Chapter Sixteen: Patriotism
1. How do you define patriotism? Do you think it is an important value? Why or why not?
2. Would you consider yourself patriotic? In what ways? How do you display your patriotism? Is it an internal or an external display?
3. Do you vote? Why or why not? Has your perspective changed since reading Chapter Sixteen?
4. Why do you think it took Michelle 15 months of deployment and two and a half years as a military life to truly understand patriotism?
5. How is patriotism linked to gratitude?
6. How can a community display its patriotism as a show of gratitude for the people who commit to defending and protecting the United States?
Chapter Seventeen: Reunion
1. In non-military lives, reunion can symbolize closure at the end of a trial. How do you feel when a trial is over? How do you gain closure for yourself?
2. After a trial is over, how do you reflect on the events that unfolded over the period of that trial?
3. How can you keep your “reunion” in mind while facing the challenges of your trial?
4. How can you welcome home single soldiers in your community who might not be greeted by families and banners?
5. How can you make your community a welcoming, thankful and loving place for soldiers returning home from war?