At eight weeks pregnant, Val Detweiler stood in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord EXCHANGE reading a childrens book and crying.
Detweiler, whose husband is a Soldier, knew right away Dear Baby, Im Watching Over You was something special. The book is directed at children whose parents are deployed, and explains in words and pictures why military parents cant always be with the ones they love the most.
On Sunday, author Carol Casey came to JBLMs Grandstaff Memorial Library to read the book aloud, and to meet Detweiler. The former preschool teacher bought the book then and there, and had sent Casey an e-mail telling her how much the story meant to her.
What really struck me about this letter is that she hasnt even had her baby and shes thinking about reading to her child, Casey said.
The thing that struck Detweiler, though, was the storys unique content. Each set of pages shows the parallel experiences of deployed parents and their kids at home for instance, moms lunch at a dining facility and babys lunch in a high chair and helps answer questions about missed birthdays and long separations.
The book is the fourth in Caseys Dear Baby series, but the first to address the children of servicemembers.
Theres not many authors (who) think about military kids, Detweiler said.
Casey might have been one of them if a friend hadnt asked her to write a book on the topic.
Her brother was deployed to Afghanistan, and his young children were struggling to understand why.
Its a bit of a different audience, Casey said. Ill be honest, its not a book I would have thought of doing if my friend hadnt approached me.
Once she started, though, she found the book had a lot of personal meaning for her. Caseys father, a World War II veteran, had raised her with a strong sense of patriotism and service to country.
She also remembered her husband traveling for work and her daughter asking if he loved work more than her.
No, thats his way of watching over us, Casey would tell her.
Children need to be reassured, Casey said.
The things adults take for granted that theyre loved and missed need to be said over and over again.
Casey hopes to continue writing for military kids, and has plans for a book called Baby Boot Camp to help explain the chain of command.
For Casey, having books on the shelf is an important part of addressing the issues that hit home.
As with any important topic, books are a great way to start a conversation, she said.
Story hours at JBLM
The advantages of reading to children go beyond extra bonding time.
Kids who have books in their lives and go to the library and go to story times test higher in their literacy scores, JBLM Library Technician Georgia Cartner said.
Story times are available to kids at JBLM each Wednesday at Grandstaff Memorial Library and Thursday at McChord Field Library. Each one has a theme relevant to families on base, from pets to friends to separations.
Kids of all ages are welcome.