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New DVD helps children deal with deployment

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense and USO officials joined military families at the U.S. Navy Memorial here yesterday to celebrate the launch of a new DVD created to help military children cope with a parent's deployment.

"With You All the Way" -- a joint effort by the Defense Department, USO and the Trevor Romain Co. -- offers school-age children help with preparing for and dealing with all stages of deployment, from pre-deployment to separation to reintegration.

"We are grateful for the dedication and creativity of people like Trevor Romain and the generosity of groups like the USO," said Barbara Thompson, the director of the Pentagon's office of family policy and children and youth. "With (their) support, we are better able to help bridge the gap that results from months and miles of separation between children and their parents. This is no small feat and the worthiest of missions."

The free DVD is slated to be distributed through USO centers and Military OneSource in May as part of a children's deployment kit that also contains a stuffed bear called Cuzzie, postcards, a journal and a set of dog tags inscribed "With You All the Way."

"The USO is devoted to supporting the military family, especially military children who aren't able to choose their situations," said Sloan Gibson, USO president. "Our partnership with Trevor Romain allows us to bring unique programming to these individuals, giving them resources to handle some of the tough circumstances and sacrifices that come with being a military child."

Ms. Thompson echoed his remarks, calling the DVD a "fantastic resource."

"The DVD helps to let (military children) know that even though it may feel like they are alone, we are with them all the way," she said.

The DVD follows main characters Jack and Skye as they help their friends Darrell, Pablo and Brittany deal with different aspects of deployment. Darrell's brother is preparing to deploy, Pablo's mother has deployed again, and Brittany is adjusting to having her father back home. It also includes interviews with military families who discuss how they work to stay connected. Noted children's author and motivational speaker Trevor Romain interacts with the characters and guides viewers through the DVD.

When faced with deployment, Ms. Thompson noted, parents and children often deal with a gamut of emotions ranging from anger and fear to worry and uncertainty.

"But something else that I know ... is that together they work hard to stay connected and to work through all those feelings," she said.

While it's a natural impulse to want to bottle up or hide feelings, the weight of doing so can take its toll, Ms. Thompson said, using the "doughboys" from World War I as an example. They "had a song that told them to 'pack all your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.' Can you imagine how heavy your kit bag -- your backpack -- would be if you packed it full with your worries? Since 1915, we've learned that although you can pack your worries away, you may only want to do so for a while. It might be healthier to take those troubles out of the bag and deal with them."

Ms. Thompson lauded the efforts of Mr. Romain, who worked closely with the USO and military to ensure the DVD met the needs of military children.

In a blog about the DVD, Mr. Romain said he decided to start the project about three years ago after he went on several overseas tours with the USO. "After visiting with these kids, it became very apparent that a resource was needed to help them with deployment," he wrote.

Children relate to his characters because they share many of the same concerns, he wrote. "We try to never shy away from being real and telling the story from a child's perspective.

"If this DVD can give these kids just a little support, some hope and inspiration, and validation of what they are feeling, it will make me extremely happy and proud," he added.

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