‘From the Heart’ published by KMC youth

by Mona Hamilton
86th Services Youth Programs director

A gala evening of food, fun and friends set the stage for the KMC premier of the new book “From the Heart.” Through the personal experiences of Airman & Family Services Flight Chief Dorothy Choate and several of her staff members, all of whom are military spouses or parents of military youth, they saw a need to reach out and support families experiencing deployment. They made a commitment as a flight to develop additional programs specifically designed to develop resiliency and coping skills for youth.

This initiative began with simple activities, such as deployed kids’ night out, and quickly evolved into a dynamic program of resources, partnerships and events designed to facilitate coping skills, family cohesion and resiliency for youth. Tools, such as Cuzzie Kits, including journals, photo albums and stationary, encourage families to communicate and help youth express their thoughts and feelings to deal with the stress of having a loved one so far away in harm’s way. Programs like adventure ski trips, family deployment outdoor week, deployed breakfast with Santa and Super Deployed Family Night Out sponsored by Ramstein Keystone Club provide opportunities for fun and the development of new relationships, while building resiliency. Many of these events challenge youth and family members to take a risk and learn a new skill. As they step out of their comfort zone, they are able to realize their talents and abilities that enable them to succeed These skills help them cope with the absence of family members.

One very important skill is the ability to express thoughts and feelings. As individuals articulate their fears and questions, as well as their successes and moments that touch their heart, it provides an outlet for strong emotions and enables them to gain support from those around them. With this thought in mind, 86th Services Squadron partnered with the Trevor Romain Foundation in June to facilitate a writer’s camp to help military youth learn the life-long skills of journaling, writing and effective communication to develop coping skills and foster resiliency.

The results of this workshop have been collected into the book. The writing provides a unique insight into what it is like to be a military child: youth who have experienced prolonged deployments of one or both parents, multiple absences from loved ones and frequent relocations. Although youth did not join the military, they also serve, and this book demonstrates their resiliency, compassion and the pride they have for the important work of their parents.

The evening began with a family friendly banquet of chicken tenders, pizza, vegetables for good measure and a dessert of cookies and ice cream sandwiches. Words of inspiration were shared by youth development professionals and Mr. Romain. However, the highlight of the evening was definitely the book signing. As nearly 40 youth authors proudly sat with heads held high, they experienced the thrill of signing autographs for adoring fans and family members. Professionally asking who they may make the inscriptions out to, one child said, “This is the best night I have ever had.”
But this workshop was about more than just putting words to paper, it was about making a difference in the lives of youth. The words of a parent can best describe the impact made by this experience.

“My son absolutely loved and greatly enjoyed Mr. Romain’s company and workshop. He blossomed like we’ve never seen him before. During that week he spent at the workshop, it was truly an incredible experience for him and us. He gained so much confidence in such a short time. I don’t think he will ever forget his experience and his friend, Mr. Romain. He has left such a great impact and imprint on my son that the camp will always be appreciated and never forgotten.”

Ms. Choate said seeing the happiness on the children’s faces is what it’s all about.
“Making this book and documenting the process the youth went through is a great example of how we are constantly striving to raise the bar of programming, taking our efforts to the next level. It is so important to invest in these kids because they are our future,” said Sally Fuller, KMC Youth and Community manager. “Whether we make a difference, for one or 1,000, positively impacting youth is truly the mission of our flight. We are excited to continue to expand the scope of our programs as we focus on building resiliency for all the challenges unique to being a military child, including frequent relocations and living overseas. Keep watching for more great things to come from 86th Services Squadron.”