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Linda-Joy Lemke, left and Susan Santistevan stand by pictures of their sons serving in the Marine Corps during a Marine moms support group Saturday. (Photos by Michael G. Seamans/The Coloradoan)

(Reprint from, October 26, 2008)

Marine matriarchs meet to support soldiers, selves


Linda Keller's daughter recently completed Marine boot camp, and Saturday the mom went through her own initiation into Marine Moms.

While not nearly as grueling as her daughter's initiation, Keller made the two-hour trip from Torrington, Wyo., to meet with about a dozen moms gathering this morning at the Harvest neighborhood clubhouse in Fort Collins to exchange cookies to send to their children.

The newest Marine mom is still getting used to the idea of having a child serving in the armed forces, but she said being around others like her is a great feeling.

"It's really nice to be able to have the support of moms with children going through different stages in their military careers," Keller said. "It's helpful to know they're going through the same things."

One mom who is not shy to share her experiences as a Marine mom is Fort Collins resident Brooke Pilkington, who started the Northern Colorado Marine Moms group about two years ago.

"I saw a need to start a Marine family support group," said Pilkington, who has two sons in the Marines, one state-side and one in Iraq. "We get to encourage each other and be with other people who understand."

Pilkington said the group started with about 10 members and has since grown, with 25 members on its e-mail list.

As the group grows, they're taking on bigger projects to help the troops feel closer to home. Saturday's cookie exchange generated about 800 cookies to be sent out. And the group is starting to promote their Christmas stocking operation.

The moms are requesting items ranging from DVDs to tube socks to send to the troops.

"This is all for our boys and girls more than anything else," said Fort Collins resident Mary Cockrill, who has a son stationed in the United States. "Anything to make their lives more like home. We'd do just about anything for them."