As Jill Biden tucked in her granddaughter, Natalie, one night in 2010 and they said their prayers together, the little girl whispered a reminder: "Don't forget, Nana, God bless our troops." The child's words became the title of a new book for children, out this month, penned by the vice president's wife.
The book chronicles Natalie's tough year without her father, Beau Biden, a major in the Delaware Army National Guard who deployed to Iraq in October 2008. In the book, then 4-year-old Natalie Skypes with her dad, draws and colors a flag for him, and comforts her 2-year-old brother, Hunter.
While the book tells her own family's story, Biden wrote it to capture the experiences of military families everywhere. "My inspiration was traveling all over the country and around the world, meeting with so many military families," Biden says.
War's Effects on Military Families
Since 2001, about 2 million children have had a parent serve overseas. Such separations can leave children like Natalie and Hunter feeling scared, confused, and vulnerable. An estimated one in four school-aged children of deployed parents suffers from depression.
Biden hopes her book will raise awareness, especially among educators, about the hardships military children endure. "Teachers and others should know about the sacrifices that military families make," says Biden, who has a doctorate in education. "As military families, and especially children, weather the multiple challenges of moves, new schools, and deployments, teachers and school communities can provide critical support and outreach."
Simple gestures can have a profound impact. Natalie's teacher, for example, posted a picture of Beau Biden's unit outside her classroom. "That picture with her dad in it meant a lot," Biden says. "She could see her dad there every day." Beau Biden's tour of duty ended in September 2009, and he returned to Delaware to resume his duties as attorney general.
Biden will donate the proceeds from her book to scholarships for children of military families. You can help, too. Her book closes with information on several organizations that support military families, such as Joining Forces, the initiative she and first lady Michelle Obama launched in 2011; the USO; and Blue Star Families.
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