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Baby Shower for Military Moms

Virginia’s First Lady, FLITE and Operation Homefront host the event at Waterford in Springfield.

Virginia's First Lady Maureen McDonnell handles 7-week-old Connor Paszkiet like the pro that she is, having raised five of her own. Alana Dickenson, expecting her first, was no doubt picking up some helpful hints. Connor's mom couldn't get in the photo, as she was busy chasing Connor's 13-month-old sister, Kairi.

Virginia's First Lady Maureen McDonnell handles 7-week-old Connor Paszkiet like the pro that she is, having raised five of her own. Alana Dickenson, expecting her first, was no doubt picking up some helpful hints. Connor's mom couldn't get in the photo, as she was busy chasing Connor's 13-month-old sister, Kairi. Andrea Worker

It started with a phone call 28 weeks ago.

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In her remarks to the moms, Virginia's First Lady Maureen McDonnell admitted she gets nervous speaking to a crowd and would rather be out there holding the babies and that's just what she did: 7-week-old Connor Paszkiet seems pretty happy with the arrangement.

What happened in between—the planning, the coordination, the logistics, the marshalling of personnel and resources, and just a lot of hard work—would have made a Pentagon strategist proud. It’s a fitting analogy since the recipients of all this effort were more than 100 expectant and new military moms, representing all branches of military service, who attended a very special group Baby Shower at The Waterford in Springfield on Aug. 21.

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Michelle Toothman from the Franconia area, First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Patty Pacheco of Springfield share a few moments talking about "Mom things." Michelle and Marine Drum and Bugle Corps David are expecting their first child. Patty's husband is an Army officer.

The phone call was from first lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell to Julie Clemente of McLean. When not absorbed in her role as the president of the Friends of Clemyjontri Park in McLean, Clemente is often to be found involved in activities as a member of the First Lady’s Initiatives Team Effort (FLITE). FLITE is Mrs. McDonnell’s answer to her husband the Governor’s Inaugural Address call to pursue "A Commonwealth of Opportunity." One hundred women from across the state belong to FLITE, working to identity programs, activities, individuals and organizations that demonstrate exemplary achievement within the first lady’s four key focus areas and providing assistance and support for their efforts. One of those focus areas targets military families, seeking ways to give back to those who serve and those who support.

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Volunteering is a Schenher family affair: Kane, 10, mom Brein, and Laney, 6, spent hours helping to make the goodie baskets for the Military Moms. Brein holds 4-month-old Brady Cooper while his mom, Ashley, gets a few moments for herself.

"Of course you say ‘Yes!’ when the first lady of Virginia is on the line!" said Clemente when describing how the baby shower was conceived. "Especially when she’s asking you to help in such a worthwhile effort."

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Photo by Andrea Worker/The Connection <cl>From left, Julie Clemente of McLean is a member of the First Lady's Initiatives Team Efforts (FLITE); Heidi Murkoff is the author of the best-selling "What to Expect" pregnancy and parenting series of books, website resources and apps; Jamilia Shipman, executive director of Operations for Operation Homefront DC Metro, and local meteorologist Kim Martucci, who did the honors as the emcee.

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Monica Guerrero holds daughter Rebeccah, 6 months. A Marine Corps wife, Guerrero says this little lady loves to get dressed up.

The next step for Clemente was contacting Operation Homefront’s DC Metro Chapter. Chapter co-founder and President Vivian Dietrich was delighted to co-host. The group has experience organizing military baby showers and gladly accepted the assignment.

Clemente and Dietrich then took things to the next level. Clemente contacted her friends, Heidi and Erik Murkoff. Heidi is the creator of the best-selling "What to Expect" pregnancy, birth and parenting series and website that began with the book "What To Expect When You’re Expecting." Hoping to receive a few signed copies of the book as giveaways at the shower, Clemente was nearly overwhelmed when Erik Murkoff offered books for all the attendees—and a guest appearance by Heidi who would also do a book signing and lead a Q&A session.

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From left, Ashley Adams, Crystal Fichter, Aileen Brasse, Laura Piper. As the only one in the group with the experience of one already, Crystal had to show the other expectant moms how it's done, as they tried to prepare to transport the baby furniture won as a door prize.

Operation Homefront DC Metro’s Dietrich did her share of recruiting as well, lining up a speaker from Fort Belvoir to provide practical baby care information and snagging Emmy-award winning meteorologist Kim Martucci as the day’s emcee. Martucci, who currently freelances in our area and can be seen doing the video forecast for NBC 4, couldn’t have been a better choice, being close to the due date of her own pregnancy.

Throughout the day, Operation Homefront volunteers circulated to assist, often taking a baby for a stroll while the mom had a chance to eat, take notes, or just stretch and take a break.

Mrs. McDonnell also added to the baby shower swag that the moms would be taking home. She and the governor had red "onesies" made for each of the moms with "Our Little Hero" printed on the front and a "Thank You from Governor and Mrs. Bob McDonnell."

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Best-selling author Heidi Murkoff signing copies of her "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book for all of the moms.

"I am the daughter and the daughter-in-law of men who served. My husband served, active and reserves, for 21 years. Even more recently, I have spent many long nights waiting anxiously for that phone to ring. Just like all of you, I waited to hear that beautiful voice and know that they’re safe," said Mrs. McDonnell, referring to her daughter Jeanine who served as an Army signal corps officer in Iraq. "Virginia needs to remember our service men and women and their families. You all are the selfless, quiet heroes of the freedoms we all wake up to each morning."

Heidi Murkoff was next up, speaking and then leading a lengthy Q&A session. Hands just kept being raised. The moms seemed genuinely relieved to be able to ask a wide range of questions and ask for advice.

More photos and information at www.firstlady.govenor.virginia.gov and Operation Homefront at www.operationhomefront.net/dcmetro.