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My Dad, My Hero

A Military Deployment Book for Kids


In the unique world of military families, stories of resilience and courage often go untold, especially through the eyes of their youngest members. Steph Mills, a military spouse and mother, turned her firsthand experiences into a powerful tool for understanding and connection with her children's book. Drawing from her background as a Department of Defense teacher in Japan and her personal journey through deployments, Steph aims to soften the concept of deployment for kids and strengthen the bonds within military families. Dive into our conversation with Steph as we uncover the inspirations and aspirations behind her heartwarming work.



Can you tell us a little about your background in the military community and what inspired you to write your book?

I am a military spouse, mother to two military-connected children, and a former Department of Defense elementary school teacher in Japan. I was inspired to write this book when I was teaching 2nd grade in Japan. Many of my student’s parents had to deploy and I witnessed, first-hand, the impact it had on my student’s lives. It was a challenging time for them but they also showed me how resilient they are. Fast forward three years and we had our son. I realized I wanted a way to explain to my son why his dad has to leave home for long periods of time. I wanted a good picture book, he could relate to that explained it in kid-friendly language.  I am currently a stay-at-home mom with our two kids, but when I return to the classroom I hope to be able to use this resource to help other military-connected kids find comfort through the challenges of deployment.  


What message or themes do you hope to convey through your book, particularly to fellow military families and individuals?

My book conveys themes of patriotism, connection, resilience, and adaptability. It also shows children that it’s okay to have feelings and emotions about difficult times.


Patriotism: "You see, my dad is in the military. Sometimes he has to leave home for a long time. He leaves to help other people and to make sure I stay safe." This book explains, in kid-friendly language, why military moms and dads have to leave home to go on deployments.


Connection: Buy 2 copies of this book; keep one at home and send one with your military member on deployment. It can be a great way for children to connect with their loved ones when they are deployed. Plan a time to Skype and read the book together or have your military member record a read-aloud all over the world and e-mail it back to their child!

 

Resilience and Adaptability: This book highlights a military child's ability to overcome hardship when his dad has to deploy. Military children are some of the most resilient and adaptable children I have ever met. The main character shows courage that other military children can learn from and relate to.


Regulating Emotions: This book teaches that it's okay to be sad when your loved one is deployed. It shows what this little boy does to look forward to the future when his dad returns home from his deployment.

 

How has your personal military experience influenced your writing style or the stories you choose to tell?

My personal military experience has influenced the stories I choose to tell because I am able to relate and connect to military-connected students because of the first-hand experiences I have had. As a teacher, I saw what coping skills they developed and how to understand a deployment. As a military spouse, I was able to use my personal experiences with deployments to integrate into the illustrations of the book. I tried to make the illustrations reflect deployments from all over the world (mountains, islands, deserts etc.) and with all branches of the military (Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard etc.) so children can see their parent’s job reflected in the book.


In what ways do you believe your book can resonate with and provide support to other military families facing similar challenges?

This book is a love letter to any military child or any child whose parent has to leave home for extended periods of time. I hope it helps them to learn to become brave, adaptable, and resilient in the face of trials...and learn to share their loved one with the world. I believe it will resonate with them as they will be able to relate to many of the illustrations in the book.


Were there any specific challenges or rewarding moments you encountered while

writing your book that you would like to share?

My Dad, My Hero started as an idea. My husband and I moved to Japan in 2019 and I taught 2nd grade for a Department of Defense school.  I taught many different military children and started realizing the difficulties they faced when their mom or dad would deploy. Flash forward to 2021 and I had my son (who is the inspiration for the main character.) I took notes on my phone every time I had a new idea for my book. I stopped and started writing it about 3 times...thinking to myself "I'm not an author" or "this is really difficult, I can't figure this out." Then one day I mustered up the courage to take a class online to teach myself how to write and publish a children's book.  I hope my story teaches children that they too can become authors.

 

What impact do you hope your book will have on readers, and how do you envision it contributing to a sense of unity or understanding within the military community?

I hope military children will see themselves as the main character and be able to learn how to be brave, resilient, and adaptable in the face of many trials. I hope this book contributes to a sense of unity within the military community because it is not branch-specific. The illustrations reflect every branch of the military so children can relate to their loved ones’ deployment experience.


Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives related to your book or future writing plans that you would like to share with our audience?

I am currently pregnant with our daughter and got inspired to write a military deployment book geared toward girls since I haven’t seen many on the market. I’m sure I’ll be busy soon but I hope to find time to write a book for my daughter and other military-connected girls. It’s a passion project that has been on my mind and heart!

 


Instagram: authorstephmills

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