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A star for each son, and pride in all who serve
By JEAN HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007
Janice K. Zabel is a Blue Star Mother with two sons serving in the military. The hallway of her Hernando Beach home is a gallery of photos of her sons, as well as family members in the military.
[Ron Thompson | Times]
How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
We've been living in Hernando County for three years. Prior to relocating to Hernando, we lived in Pasco County for 19 years. Before that, Amelia Island, and before that in many places, including England, Germany and Guam, since my husband was in the military.
Who are the members of your family?
I'm married to Louis H. Zabel. He's a retired Air Force B-52 crew member. We have two sons: Army Warrant Officer Kendal H. Zabel, who is serving as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot doing medevac in Alaska, and Aaron Zabel, who is serving in the Navy as an electronic technician aboard a Burke-class destroyer. We also have two grandchildren, Makenna and Caden Zabel.
Tell us about your career.
Both my parents served in the military. My father was Army, Royal Corps of Signals. My mother was in the Woman's Royal Air Force. I started working civil service at the age of 18 at South Ruislip Air Force Base, U.K. I've also worked in Germany at the Bitburg AFB, in Guam as a base commander's secretary during the fall of Vietnam, and volunteered in the refugee camps at Anderson AFB in Guam after the fall of Saigon.
I spent more than 14 years working for the state of Florida in different family support agencies.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
I am a Blue Star Mother and member of the Blue Star Mothers of America Inc. Every mother of a serviceman or -woman is a Blue Star Mother. There are still many mothers who are not aware of our organization, and I hope to change that.
We work with chapters throughout the country to support our servicemen and -women. Florida has two chapters, one in Jacksonville and one in Daytona. Fathers are very welcome as associate members, and we have some wonderful fathers who help us support our troops. When a mother loses a child in the military, she becomes a Gold Star Mother.
I'm also involved in several other organizations, including the Marine Families Online in Action, the Military Support Online Network, Navy Moms, Blue Star Moms at ease and Hugs. If I'm looking for help, support or information, I go online, explain my situation, and help is offered from different support groups. We all work together. We are truly blessed here in Hernando County to have such fine groups of people supporting our military.
I'm also a member of the Daughters of the British Empire, War of the Roses Chapter, Spring Hill Branch. I am British by birth, American by choice.
Tell me more about the Blue Star Mothers.
We'd love to have more Blue Star Mother chapters. It only takes five to start a chapter. Both Florida BSM chapters not only send boxes to our troops overseas, they are at the ports to welcome them home. They are at airports to say hi and goodbye. They offer emotional support to mothers of military personnel.
My duties include liaison from Blue to Gold for the state of Florida. When one of our children becomes one of our fallen heroes, I coordinate with the military casualty assistance officer to present the families with the Gold Star banner. Blue Star Mothers hang banners in their windows with blue stars. One blue star equals one service member; two blue stars mean two service members, etc. The blue star represents hope and pride.
When you lose a child, the blue star turns to gold. The gold star represents sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom.
As Florida's liaison, and with help from the Blue Star Mothers of Michigan, we helped a military mother from Tinian receive her banner just in time for Veterans Day. The banner was presented to her on Saipan, an island in the Pacific.
Here in Hernando County, at 11 minutes past 11 a.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the Gold Star banner was presented to Gold Star Mother Dee Mills at the VFW Post 9236 in Hernando Beach. This was coordinated with the VFW, its auxiliary and local Marines. Dee Mills is the mother of Marine Sgt. Lea R. Mills, who was killed in action April 28, 2006.
I work with mothers and fathers and dedicated Americans all over the United States. Without the help of the Patriot Guard Riders, my duties would be extremely difficult. The Patriot Guard Riders work hand in hand with the Blue Star Mothers. They help us contact the casualty assistance officer, and are there by our side as we attend the many funerals and memorials. They act as our escorts and offer a shoulder to cry on. We also work with members of Sew Much Comfort. These wonderful ladies sew special clothing for our wounded.
Do you have any special hobbies?
I love to read and I like to study different religions, people and history.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
Meeting people and just sitting by the water. We enjoy Hernando Beach, and also like to entertain friends. I would like to point out that there are so many wonderful people here in Hernando County who support our military, and I would like to thank every person who lined the streets from Spring Hill to Interstate 75 for the funeral of Spc. Cody Grater, who was killed in action on July 29. Your support for one of our fallen heroes was very much appreciated by this military mom.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
I think the taxes and insurance are outrageous. I know this is happening all over Florida; I would like to see a change in this.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
When I was young, I played the daughter of British comedian Benny Hill. As a teen, I was a regular dancer on the British pop show Ready Steady Go, which was similar to American Bandstand. I used to run Pat Boone's London fan club and was in two of his movies in crowd scenes. I'm still a big fan of his today. Pat is a great supporter of the National Guard.
Do you know someone who would make a good Hernando Neighbors profile? Contact Jean Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1438.