Author Offers Support to Military Kids Worldwide
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., Oct. 18, 2011 Trevor Romain was in his element as he stood among a group of giggling 2nd and 3rd graders at W.W. Ashurst Elementary School here last week.
Trevor Romain, a renowned children’s book author and illustrator, speaks to children at W.W. Ashurst Elementary School on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Oct. 13, 2011. Romain is in the midst of a “With You All the Way” tour that will take him around the world to offer support and comfort to military children. DOD photo by Elaine Sanchez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gesturing wildly and jumping for emphasis, the renowned children’s book author and illustrator told one of his signature “duh” jokes – this one involving his grandmother and a ceiling fan -- as the students laughed and cheered.
Romain is willing to pull out every trick in his hat – whether it’s cartoons or jokes, gestures or grimaces -- to capture children’s attention. He has learned over the years that kids absorb his message better when it’s accompanied by humor.
And his message this day was simple: people are with military children “all the way.”
“You didn’t choose to be military kids; somebody else chose for you,” he told the kids as they hung on his every word. “But you are serving, too. You are special; you are very important.”
Romain is in the midst of a worldwide tour called “With You All the Way,” a partnership between his foundation and the USO that aims to support military children around the globe and help them to deal with the stresses of military life.
During his tour last year, he visited 40,000 military kids and is attempting to see close to 60,000 this year, he said, both stateside and overseas. He kicked off this year’s tour two weeks ago in Alaska and plans to stop at installations in Germany, Turkey, England and Italy, among others.
At each stop, Romain touches on topics that directly affect military children, from handling deployments and separations to adjusting to frequent moves and new schools. Throughout, he emphasizes the importance of reaching out for help when needed, being kind to others, and the need to “feel your feelings” – all while keeping the kids wildly entertained.
Romain asked the students here to explain how they managed their feelings. The children, nearly all of whom have experienced a parental deployment, eagerly volunteered their suggestions, which ranged from taking deep breaths, to writing in a journal, to “talking to my cat and toys.”
“It’s OK to be angry; it’s OK to be frustrated and sad,” he told them. “But what we do with those feelings is really important."
As he talked about deployments and feelings, Romain noticed a girl crying in the back of the crowd. He started up a “Jack and Sky” cartoon that deals with overcoming obstacles, then walked back to offer her words of encouragement and comfort.
In an interview after the assembly, Romain noted the relief he’s observed in children after simply giving them permission to feel. “As adults, we try to fix things,” he said. “We ask them to feel and then we get uncomfortable when they do feel. We tell them, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t cry.’ What we’re really saying is, ‘Don’t feel.’
“What we’re trying to do here is allow them to feel so they can move through their trauma,” he added. And for a kid, having a parent gone for extended periods of time, such as a deployment, is traumatic, he noted.
“What we want [children] to do is to be able to manage their feelings instead of the feelings managing them,” Romain said. “If you are in charge of feelings, you can move through them.”
Romain wrapped up the assembly with a film clip showing troops and kids from around the world shouting out “We’re with you all the way.”
“I want you guys to know that there are a lot of people who care deeply for you,” he said.
He promised the children they’d soon receive a “With You All the Way” deployment kit, which includes postcards that can be sent to a deployed loved one, an interactive journal with activities and writing prompts, a stuffed animal and the DVD, “With You All the Way! Dealing With Deployment.” The Trevor Romain Foundation collaborated with the USO and Defense Department to create the kits to address the needs of children before, during and after deployments.
After the assembly, the girl who had been crying in the crowd joined a group of children lingering around Romain. Romain had touched on some of the issues that she’s recently had to deal with, she said, such as moving away from friends and dealing with separations from her father, who serves in the Marine Corps.
The 8-year-old said she learned two important lessons from Romain: “It’s always OK to cry, and always tell someone if you need a hand,” she said. “It’s very important.”
Military kids are resilient, Romain said, which helps carry them through the stresses of military life. It’s an “honor to serve these kids,” he said.