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
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
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
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."
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.'
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
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.
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
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