Military families understand that knowing your neighbor makes a difference. Sometimes, you just need someone nearby who has your back, can hang on to your house key in case you lock yourself out, and makes a good emergency contact for your kid's school.
Then, there are the really good neighbors. You know the ones I'm talking about. They aren't just your emergency contact, they are the people who get your kid off the bus when you're stuck in traffic. They are the pie makers, the just-because wine drinkers, the Thanksgiving table fillers, the emergency room drivers and the driveway shovelers. And you can't imagine life without them.
Those are the kinds of neighbors Blue Star Families likes to recognize with its annual Neighbors Award. Started in 2015, the honor recognizes good civilian neighbors who make military life tick. It's not that they are doing anything heroic, per se, but their actions are everything to the people who receive them.
"What they are doing for their military neighbor can be almost lifesaving," said Suzi Guardia, senior adviser for neighbor engagement with Blue Star Families. "To a military family, the fact that someone is going to do that for him could be what gets them through the whole day. We want to elevate those stories."
To select the winner, Blue Star Families officials shuffle through the nominations submitted on their website and pick someone truly inspiring. Last year, it was a community member who helped run a Guardsman's business during deployment. In 2016, the recipient was a couple who became like family to a military family in their neighborhood. To be eligible, the nominee must be a civilian (although they can be a veteran), and the nominator must be in the active duty military or the Guard or Reserve. Both must live in the U.S. lower-48.
The winning recipient and nominator both receive a trip for two to Washington, D.C., in May for Blue Star Families' annual Neighbors Celebration.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.