‘Little C.H.A.M.P.S’ Author Fink Shares Stories from USO Tour to Japan

Debbie Fink – co-author of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel” is currently on a USO tour of the Pacific talking to children from military families. Here is a blog post about her trip:


Author Debbie Fink, center, is on a USO tour in Japan. USO photo

A sandy-haired child scoots out of line after a Little C.H.A.M.P.S event to ask me “But what if I don’t feel any of those emotions ever?”

We had discussed the importance of identifying our emotions. Happy. Sad. Scared. Angry. Worried. Surprised. Embarrassed. Confused. In Denial (with explanation).

Now here’s a Champ who, at the very least, has endured multiple moves and parental deployments and homecomings. And yet he views himself as emotionless.

Anyone who has taken Psychology 101 would recognize that there is some suppression of emotions going on here. I have less than a minute with him to respond before he’s swooped into the exit line.

“Okay. You’re tuning in. Now is a good time to talk about your thoughts with a trusted adult. Keep communicating. You could visit your guidance counselor. I suggest you share with her what you shared with me.”

And he was gone.

Right behind him a bubbly, brown-eyed boy bumped along, saying, “My dad is deploying. Aaaaaagain. Now I know I can tell him that I’m feeling worried. And angry. And scared, too.” I have mere moments to say, “Good! It will help you and your dad to talk about how you’re feeling. Keep communicating.”

And he was gone.

After another performance, a giggly group of girl Champs approached me. The ‘spokesgirl’ said, “We love our ‘Little C.H.A.M.P.S’ song! We listen to it over and over! And your ‘Heart Smart’ song is awesome!” Then their stream of questions tripped over each other: “Did you really write it for your kids? Did you really fix it for us? Was that really your daughter singing? Is it on YouTube? She’s got a pretty voice! So does the USO lady who sang!” Chuckling, I answered, “Yes; yes; yes; not yet, though it’s posted on OperationChamps.org – but ask a parent to look for it with you. And thanks – I’ll tell them you said they have pretty voices!“

And they were gone.

Then there was the Champ who asked quietly as she passed, “Am I really special? Do I really have a spark?” Following my emphatic, reassuring “YES! YES!!” response, she was gone.

A last moment engraved in my soul was the precious li’l Champ who, on her way out, looked at me and said, “Can I hug you?  ‘Cuz I feel like you hugged me!” After our real hug and shared moment, she was gone.

These vignettes capture the li’l hearts and minds of the incredible Champs encountered during our first 10  “edutainment” performances in mainland Japan.   While these Champs came and went, heading back to life-on-the-move, they are emblazoned in my heart forever.

Thanks to the USO and its teamwork with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA), each of the 6,000 Champs we visit in mainland Japan and Okinawa is receiving a copy of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S” book – a story that celebrates their selfless service and sacrifice, while giving them coping tools that further fortify their resiliency and character.

One overwhelming takeaway is how beyond impressed I am by the exemplary professionals handling all the logistical details that go into planning and executing this Little C.H.A.M.P.S tour. The USO’s stalwart and skillful team in the Pacific and stateside – working alongside DODEA’s dedicated and committed staff and educators – fills me with the greatest admiration and respect. I must also give a shout out to the USO volunteers who have helped behind-the-scenes to make all this happen!

Sixteen performances await us in Okinawa. Circling back to emotions, I’m so happy to be spreading the goodness and gratitude together with the USO and DODEA; and am already so sad to think that soon I will also . . . be gone.

Though, as is sung in “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S” song, “Goodbyes are not forever / goodbyes are not the end / they simply mean we’ll miss you / until we meet again.”  Farewell, Japan’s Champs! Hello, Okinawa’s Champs! Ready or not, here we come!   Go Champs!

–Debbie Fink

2 thoughts on “‘Little C.H.A.M.P.S’ Author Fink Shares Stories from USO Tour to Japan

  1. All we, voluntering, are done support and aid to others and, it the same time, to ourselfs, as who aid others acquire an interior satisfaction, deriving by making happy people around him. When this people is constitute by warriors and veterans on need, who are buddies, and their families,aid acquire a ulterior value.We must support them during deployments, when on war’s theater, when returning back for a little, when they have situations with attached stigma, that are TBI PTSD, and more, our aid is due, is due for they have sacrifyied and are sacrifying for alls. We may, togheter, done moral and physic support, may redone them the will of life, of affront challenge, of combat. Buddies, we will never forget you, we will ever make the best for you: for that we need you ask us what you need. please make so claudio alpaca

    • As a BRAT of 50 years I find it reprehensible that a civilian mother and daughter have decided that it is their place to rename us! We are BRATS not Champs! The Finks of Operation Champs are not military and are not BRATS and they can never know what our lives were like. We lived the BRAT experience and I would not change a thing about growing up as a BRAT. The term BRAT has been in use for over 230 years and it is our history and our heritage that the Finks are undermining. BRAT is a universally known and accepted term of endearment for military children. We are proud to have earned the right to be called BRAT. Our heroes are our mother’s and father’s that served. We are not the heroes but we lived with heroes and we know not to over use that term! A hero is one who lays down his own life so that others can live according the the Urban Dictionary. According to the Urban Dictionary a champ is a wack person, a loser, someone who lacks coolness, not popular, annoying. A Military Brat is defined as a child of a soldier. grew up in a community of service. academic studies show military brats lack any kind of racism. military brats grow up all over the world and move frequently. they are accustomed to sacrifice for the greater good. We already have a name and one that has positive connotations. Why try to fix something that isn’t broken? Their program points out differences in military children and civilian children. Children are just children no matter where they grow up. There are already programs in place that address issues that military BRATS might face that don’t attempt to rebrand us. If they wanted to do something positive and affirming they would have tried teaching the children about their rich history as BRATS. There are so many programs run by Brats for Brats already. There are also many educational programs that address the very same issues already in place. This program is totally unnecessary and a waste of tax payers money. The USO has funded many trips abroad with donated money. It would seem that the donations would be much better spent on wounded soldiers, homeless veterans, etc.

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