Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell and best-selling author Heidi Murkoff joined more than 100 military moms and their kids at a baby shower at the Waterford in Springfield on Tuesday. The event was organized by Operation Homefront DC Metro, and included raffles, pregnancy workshops and $350 in gifts per family.
"I know from experience that the great men and women in the military perform better when they know that their families are being cared for," said McDonnell, who asked first-time mothers to raise their hands. "As a first lady and mother of five, I'd like to offer my congratulations to you."
The DC Metro area is home to more than 100,000 U.S. military personnel, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The salary for a private, or E-1 averages around $16,000 a year, and an E-6, or Petty Officer in the Navy, averages about $30,000 annually.
Operation Homefront provides free financial assistance to military families with rank E-6 or below, by helping pay past-due utility bills, car payments and food assistance.
"Military moms face many challenges in addition to the stress of the repeated deployments of their spouses," said Vivian Dietrih, President of Opertation Homefront DC Metro.
Murkoff, the author of the What to Expect book series, fielded questions from and offered advice to the women in the audience.
"My feeling is that there is no absolute in parenting. Keep the child healthy and safe," Murkoff told a mother concerned about her child's sleeping habits. "If you find co-sleeping worked well for you and your family, then you should continue. It is recommend that you keep the baby in the same room with the family."
Jeannette Nunmerdor took home a case of diapers and a table and chair set for her 4-month-old daughter Brianna and 5-year-old son. Nunmerdor lives on Fort Meade and is married to a military police officer. She heard about Operation Homefront while her family was stationed in Arizona.
"I'll definitely keep checking their website to see if there's anything I might be interested in," Nunmerdor said. "Kids are expensive. This back to school list… Why do kindergarteners need 10 glue sticks? I don't get that."