"Connecting with other people became very helpful," Doerflinger says.
"We have a new mom, she's there, we let them talk about their hero," Roddy says. "The people that come realize that they're not alone, that there are others out there, and this is what we're doing to ease our pain by helping others. And the more involved we get, the easier the grief is to bear.
"So we are a little bit of a support group in that sense. But we don't want to give the vision that we're sitting there boohooing with tissues all around."
Most of the mothers in the state chapter have lost children in the past decade. But Edith Canapp first joined the American Gold Star Mothers in 1968, after her son, Cpl. Gary Canapp, died in Vietnam.
Roddy describes Edith Canapp as the chapter's adviser. Canapp, now 86, sees her role as inspirational.
"I still see those two officers coming to my door," the Abingdon woman says. But over time, she says, "the pain is lighter."
"The reason I wanted to be involved in this new development is I've been there," Canapp says. She says she can show the younger mothers that life goes on.
"If that's the only symbol I stand for, that pleases my heart."
In a nation divided over the wars of the past decade, Luther says members "stay above" politics.
"We know that there are mothers who feel that the war should never have happened, shouldn't be going on now, and end it quickly — and those who are at the other end of that spectrum and feel like President Bush did the right thing," she says. "We choose to ignore those differences and continue to work on what's important, and that's our mission to help veterans and to be there as support of each other."
Tracy Miller says it isn't difficult to keep her opinions separate from her work with the mothers.
Miller, the vice president of the state chapter, lost her son, Marine Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski, to a sniper in Iraq in 2004.
An instructor at Towson University, she helped to establish a center there for veterans, with a full-time veteran services coordinator and "thank you" grants for students who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.
She also traveled to the White House to protest the war in Iraq.
"At the meetings, we are talking about positive action that we can do," the Towson woman says. "We have choices. I spoke at Crownsville [Veterans] Cemetery a couple of years ago for the Memorial Day, and I've spoken at other cemeteries on Veterans Day. I just keep politics out of it.
"Even during Vietnam, I knew enough not to blame the people, the soldiers."
Part of the family
It's 8 a.m. in the USO lounge atBaltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport— a comfortable space off the baggage claim area where service members passing through may stop for coffee or a bite to eat, to go online or watch television, to make telephone calls or catch up on some sleep.
Roddy and her husband, Bob, volunteer here twice a month. On this morning, she's chatting with Xavier Jimenez, a midshipman heading home to Brooklyn after completing his second year at the Naval Academy.
Jimenez sees the mothers as part of a broader military family.
"I think it definitely must be hard for them to stay involved," he says. "It takes a strong person to be able to do that."
Janice Chance sees staying involved as a way forward.
"Our hearts will never ever stop aching," she says. "That hole will always be there. But that void, it's filled with service. Our children's service has not really ended. It's a comma, and we're continuing on."