May 23, 2008
When it comes to “supporting the troops,” some Americans have chosen some curious means of expression. Who can forget Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) June 2005 statement from the Senate floor, comparing U.S. troops at Guantanamo to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings?”
More recently, bestselling fiction writer Stephen King, reminiscent of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) back in 2006, was inspired to underscore the alleged ignorance of our servicemen: If you can’t read, explained King, “you’ve got the Army, Iraq … something like that.” When criticized for his remarks, King reflexively responded with the standard liberal mantra: he angrily denounced those who dare question his patriotism. Gee, why would anyone do that?
Alas, for a genuine example of truly supporting the troops, few expressions are as innovative and moving as a new book by Kathleen Edick and Paula J. Johnson, titled, "We Serve Too! A Child’s Deployment Book." Packed with colorful illustrations and heartwarming, practical messages, this is the first book I’ve seen that is addressed to those who love the troops more than any of us: the children of our enlisted men overseas.
The book is rich in the virtues honored by the men who have fought for America for over 200 years. “Daddy’s unit was deployed, his work is far away; and though we are not overjoyed, a soldier must obey,” reads one passage. “The Army said we couldn’t go and Dad said, ‘Stay right here, and wait for me ‘til I get back in just about a year.’”
Another reads: “My mama needs a hug tonight; she’d like one from my dad. I’ll give her one for both of us, so she won’t be sad. And now I snuggle down to sleep. Oh, mama, tuck me tight. Snug me up like Daddy’s hug, we’ll all sleep tight tonight.”
These pages are primarily about helping children (and even their moms) cope with the absence of their dad. At the end of the book, however, one finds something for dad as well: a removable insert of suggestions for the kids for their father, beginning with a long list under the heading, “Send a Box of Things to Daddy.” The insert concludes with this wisdom: “Choose a special prayer to pray together before Dad leaves, and talk about how you will both continue that connection of prayer as long as he is away.” And in case that prayer doesn’t come easy, Edick and Johnson have composed one:
I pray my Daddy
will be strong;
that time away
will not be long.
I pray, dear Lord,
be close to him.
On every mission,
go with him.
While we at home
stay strong and true;
help us to love and trust
The closing prayer is a nice touch that echoes back to the Patrick Henry quote at the start of the book: “The battle does not belong to the strong alone, but to the vigilant, the active, and the brave.”
Not surprisingly, given the political leanings of the publishing industry, these unapologetic expressions of God and country—call it patriotism—were a sticking point in finding a publisher for the book. One editor at a major house was willing to consider the manuscript only if the authors toned down the flag-waving. “That was NOT going to happen!” says co-author Paula Johnson.
Johnson told me that her co-author, Kathleen Edick, had the vision for the book. Edick’s son had just been deployed to Iraq, leaving young children and a young wife at home for a year. She was looking for a book to help her grandchildren understand what was happening. She came up empty-handed. So, she sketched out a story, which she shared with Johnson in the art class they were taking in their hometown of Eaton, Colorado. Suddenly, they were collaborating on a book.
Rather than writing something that honored the politics of liberal editors in New York, Edick and Johnson stuck to their guns and honored the troops. They saluted the flag. This was a sacrifice that left them alone to self-publish—meaning no advance, no huge print-run, and no team of 24/7 publicists booking them on radio and TV.
Yet, it was a sacrifice worthy of the little girl on the cover waving an American flag.
If you know a family missing dad this Memorial Day, as he patrols the dangerous terrain of Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever, buy a copy of this book as a gift; or, better, buy a box and donate it to the local recruiting office or VFW or American Legion. It would make for much more meaningful summer reading than the latest Stephen King slasher novel.
Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007), professor of political science, and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).