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Super Dangerous Top Secret Dinosaur Mission

A Military Spouse's Tale of Turning Deployment into Adventure for Kids

I am a military spouse of 10 years for a National Guard Soldier. I've also worked in Public Affairs for the National Guard and I've been involved in advocating for change in the National Guard, namely in suicide awareness. During these past ten years, we have had many highs and lows. My husband deployed in March of 2020, which was also the beginning of the lockdowns in the states. Because this time was the first deployment for my little boy, and suddenly the whole world changed into isolation overnight, I saw that asking my 2 1/2-year-old to cope with this deployment was also impossible. This prompted me to come up with a story that he could relate to.

The theme of the book is taking a subject like deployment and asking children to use their imaginations to turn that time of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear into an adventure of their own. Rather than focusing on something that they can't always understand, this book gives them a way to correlate the separation to a reason that they can comprehend. When we ask children to reason with their parents for an extended amount of time, for us it was a year, to go get the "bad people" then that causes mixed emotions. They become anxious and fearful, and they feel abandoned. However, all children understand dinosaurs. Making these situations more tangible helps them to see that they will be okay, and their parent will be okay. For military families, this gives them another way to communicate during the deployment, which is easily lost with small children.

Personally, my experience as a military spouse has been chaotic. I didn't understand what it meant to be married to a Soldier and the constant changes at the beginning were frustrating. Therefore, when my son began experiencing that for the first time, I could immediately relate. This is my first children's book, but I would love to write more military children's books and eventually write more in terms of research for military families.

"Super Dangerous Top Secret Dinosaur Mission" will resonate with military families because when the waves of emotions hit before deployments, the parents are coping with their own pain, frustration, and helplessness. This story gives them the opportunity to focus their attention on building a story rather than trying to grapple with the many emotions that are often too much for a family to manage without friction. Military families need support in communicating during deployment as the family dynamics change in the absence of a parent. This book offers support to the children, as well as the adults.

There are no rewards without challenges, right? My challenge for this book was that I had never written a children's book, only journalism articles. I didn't know how many pages, what dimensions, or even where to find publishers. Lastly, I had never illustrated a book and I hadn't drawn since I was a teenager, which was some time ago. At first, I tried to find an illustrator who could envision what I saw in my head. My budget was zero. Illustrators, especially good illustrators, cost a fair bit of money. I gave up on the idea of illustrating this book, until one night, my grandma was in the hospital and I couldn't sleep. I found a drawing app on my phone and began drawing using my finger. Those illustrations came out okay, so I kept going. Eventually, I bought an iPad for procreate and I drew for no less than 3 hours per day, every day. Of course, once a book is illustrated, that's not even half the battle. Finding a literary agent or a publisher is very difficult. Self-publishing is one of the only ways an unknown author can get a book out now. Which also means you're responsible for marketing and building a community on your own. The reward has been seeing the story that I wrote for my little boy come to life. This is my love letter to him.

The impact that I am hoping this book has on the military community is the same impact that it had on my little boy. This story gave him courage when his world was falling apart. It gave us a way to keep our family together during a very challenging deployment where we were not only separated but also isolated. We had little support from his unit and yet, the spouses of his battery came together to build a community of our own. We created our own support. Without them, I don't know how we would have made it through that year. I believe in this book and its ability to create unity within the community. Military kids have few books to choose from when trying to comprehend certain moments in their lives. Giving them characters to relate to, or even to create a fantastical world can help them understand bigger conversations.

My initiative for this book is to push it out to a national audience to find a cost-effective way of printing this and getting it into the hands of military children at no cost to them or their parents. While I want this book to be a resource for all military kids, I also want it to open up conversations about mental and emotional health for them during and after deployments. I want this book to help military kids realize that their imaginations are the most powerful thing in the world. A story of their own can help them get through impossible, and often terrifying, moments in their lives. As far as new projects go, I'm not working on a book, but I would like to become more involved in advocating for policy change around military families.

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