Holding On To Cuzzie

Every now and then during our travels and presentations you come across a child that has a story that is very touching and inspirational. On this particular day, we were lucky enough to do the presentation at a theater in base housing in Sasebo. This one little girl comes skipping down the aisle holding a Cuzzie bear. We see this from time to time to time. It is very cool to see that because we know that she must have received one of our deployment kits. These kits are called the With You All the Way deployment kits. The USO gives these out to help kids with all phases of deployment. The Cuzzie bear is an integral part of the kit along with an animated movie and journal.

Trevor shows off a Cuzzie bear

Her teacher brought her over, carrying her With You All the Way journel along with her Cuzzie. She sat with me for a minute or two showing us what she had written and drawn in her journal. She also showed off a picture of her dad in full uniform, which she had glued it into her journal. She was so proud.  Her dad is currently deployed, but she seemed to be doing really well.

After she went and took her seat her teacher came up to and visited for a little bit.  The teacher wanted us to know she had really been using the kit and practicing some of things recommended in the DVD and journal.  Then the teacher shared something that had me tearing up with pride, joy, and also sadness.

On the day that the little girl’s father deployed she went with her mother to the ship that her dad was leaving on. Before he got on the ship the little girl sang, ‘Anchors Away’ to her dad. And as she sang, the little girl’s dad cried. I know that he couldn’t have helped but feel an overwhelming sense of many emotions. But he must have been incredibly proud of his little girl.

Trevor visits with military children overseas

Just seeing this little girl’s face and picturing that moment made me choke up instantly. And as I watched the little girl during that presentation I couldn’t help but get emotional. It is so gratifying to know that the kit the USO provided that little girl had such a positive impact on her deployment experience. And the way that she held on to her Cuzzie was absolutely priceless.

This was a great way to wrap up the second leg of the tour of the pacific region. Makes for a much shorter plane ride. – Trevor Romain, USO Entertainer and Children’s Author & Illustrator

Trevor Romain Visits Germany!

The USO and Trevor Romain are “With You All the Way”! (All photos courtesy of the Trevor Romain Foundation)

The USO’s “With You All the Way” tour is off to an exciting start! After returning home from the tour’s kick-off in Germany, Trevor Romain traveled to his first U.S. Army Post in Fort Riley, Kansas to present to elementary school children on difficult topics related to deployment, bullying, and making healthy emotional choices. Trevor will be presenting to thousands of military children and families over the next few years, and Fort Riley was a great place to begin the tour! The USO center, schools, and families were welcoming and informative. Trevor even got to experience real Kansas barbecue in Aggieville between presentations! Luckily, he and his team were in good company as they explored Fort Riley’s enormous base, and the surrounding areas.

Five elementary schools were able to participate in Trevor’s presentations, touching at least 800 students. Fort Riley has a great group of kids! It was obvious the children were supportive of one another and worked together as a team; true heroes indeed. The laughs echoed throughout each presentation as Trevor mixed in jokes with serious discussions about some pretty challenging situations these brave children are facing. Jack and Skye, Trevor’s animated characters, were also a main part of his act. Although Jack may have been a bit focused on his obsession with eating nachos, he made it clear to the kids how important it was for them to be a good friend and help each other during deployments.

Not everything was fun and games. Children offered personal stories of how their lives have been impacted by deployment and bullying. A few children even mentioned changes they plan on making to stop bullying from happening so their friends no longer have to experience the hurt that comes along with it. Tears, hugs, and laughter were present as children’s concerns were brought to light. Any special circumstances were documented in order for those kids to receive the appropriate support. Each child will receive their own personal kit with Trevor’s animated DVD’s, a journal, and “The Art of Caring” for the parents, with many thanks to the USO’s generous donations. Children were jumping for joy at the mention of this gift.

USO Fort Riley Center Director April Blackmon had this to say about the tour: “We were fortunate to have Trevor visit our USO and help distribute the comfort kits to our families while he was here to speak with the schoolchildren. His presentations were wonderful, and the kids/families really enjoyed it. He spreads such a positive message about expressing your feelings and it being okay to be upset with deployments – I think every military child would benefit from hearing his messages.

Personally, as an Army brat, it was difficult growing up in the Army world and dealing with my father’s deployments and especially his injuries. I didn’t know how to express my feelings, or that it was okay to feel the way I did, so I just distanced myself and turned off my emotions. I wasn’t sure how to talk to my parents about it, or how to ask for help when I was feeling down and worried and angry. I wish I had someone like Trevor to visit with back then, because I think it would’ve made a big difference. I hope that what Trevor teaches these children helps them tackle emotions head-on and results in positive outcomes for them. And I truly think it will…

And it was interesting, after his presentations to the schoolkids (which were great) they were drawn to children who needed some extra care. I watched as these kids cried and started to vent about their problems – which was good. And I thought it was good that they took the kids contact information and made sure each kid in extra need got a kit of some sort.”

Thanks, Trevor, for being with us all the way!  More pictures below…

Before leaving for volleyball practice, this 3rd grader takes a peak at Trevor’s journal. He keeps this book of meaningful doodles with him at all times.

The smiles and laughs were endless while Trevor interacted with military children. Afterward, kids line up for high-fives and a free deployment kit, sponsored by the USO.

Cuzzie - an integral part of the Dealing with Deployment kit - is all geared-up and ready to fly. He’s named Cuzzie… ‘cuz he cares’!

Cuzzies in hand, siblings give their biggest smiles. Each child also received a personal journal to write down their thoughts and feelings throughout their parent’s deployment.

Tell Us About Your Favorite Program!

Many people know the USO for our celebrity entertainment tours and USO Centers in airports around the world.  But did you know that we have a variety of programs that can be enjoyed by service members far beyond the reaches of a center or tour.

And we continue to grow!  Our newest program – Operation Enduring Care – is a “comprehensive long-term initiative to support America’s Wounded Warriors and their families.”  And many local USO Centers also offer programs and services that are unique to the populations they serve.   Your USO is changing…but the fact that we support our Troops and their families will always remain.

Take our quick poll to let us know which program is your favorite, or which one your family enjoys the most.  We’re always looking for feedback and love to hear your personal stories.  PLUS, two lucky blog comments will be chosen at random to win a special USO Prize Pack!  (Sorry, but USO employees and their families are not eligible)

Vote for your favorite above, add your original idea below, and be sure to check out this short video that shows USO2GO in action!

“With You All the Way: Dealing with Deployment” is Now Available for Purchase!

We’re thrilled to announce that Trevor Romain’s “With You All the Way: Dealing with Deployment” is now available through Military OneSource!  We know that so many of you have been eagerly anticipating this release as much as we have.

Trevor himself penned a blog post for us awhile back, and had this to say about the DVD: “It deals with all stages of deployment; from pre-deployment, deployment, and re-integration. We teach the same main characters, Jack and Skye, how to help their buddies, Darrell, Brittany, and Pablo, deal with their families’ particular stage of deployment. Along the way, I interact with these animated characters and guide them through the story.”

The DVD is designed for children ages 6 through 10, but is equally valuable – and enjoyable! – for older siblings and parents.  We hope your family enjoy’s “With You All the Way” as much as we do and that it make deployments just a little bit easier.  Watch the trailer below!

Letters Back Home: Kid Edition

Today’s Letter Back Home isn’t quite that, but we knew we had to share it with you anyway.  It’s an actual letter that was written from a military child to Trevor Romain, one of our favorite people here at the USO.  His DVD “With You All the Way” is being shown to kids around the country and will be available on DVD at the end of the summer.  One young audience member was certainly touched by their viewing, and wrote Trevor to tell him how it changed her and her family’s life…

With You All The Way

by Trevor Romain, founder of the Trevor Romain Foundation

Hello from Germany. I just arrived at Ramstein Air Base from the beautiful town of Garmisch, where I spoke at a conference sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. I would like to thank the Boys and Girls Clubs for all the work they do with our military children on bases all around the world.

I am proud to give you all some really exciting news. The USO, in partnership with our company, The Trevor Romain Company, is proud to announce the release of a brand new animated DVD that is designed to help school-age children with deployment. This project began about three years ago after I had just completed several tours with the USO, doing stand-up comedy for the school-age children living on bases overseas. After visiting with these kids, it became very apparent that a resource was need to help them with deployment. We approached the USO and asked them to help us produce an animated movie using the same characters from the series that airs on PBS stations and in schools all across the country. They liked the idea, and the project was born.

Let me tell you a little bit about the show. It is titled, “With You All the Way.” It deals with all stages of deployment; from pre-deployment, deployment, and re-integration. We teach the same main characters, Jack and Skye, how to help their buddies, Darrell, Brittany, and Pablo, deal with their families’ particular stage of deployment. Along the way, I interact with these animated characters and guide them through the story.

I love Jack and Skye. They have lived in my head for quite some time and I am so glad they got a chance to star in their own series. They are both great kids, but very quirky in their own right. Like all best friends, they really like to poke fun at each other.

On a side note, kids love to ask me why I named the characters Jack and Skye. Several years ago, my dad died. He was a really great guy and I wanted to remember him throughout the series because he would have loved it. His name was Jack and he is now in the sky, hence the names.

Trevor RomainAs I mentioned earlier, Jack and Skye have been running around in my head for many years. They drive me nuts. Jack is very gentle and has a big heart. However, he is a bit of a klutz and loves to crack jokes, most of which are not very funny. Skye is a smart, confident, and witty girl, who can have a pretty sarcastic tongue sometimes. Together they make a great team.

Their friends in this episode are Darrell, Pablo, and Brittany; all of whom are experiencing stress because of a family member’s deployment.

Darrell is a very nice kid but he can be quite shy. His older brother is about to be deployed, and Darrell really looks up to him. Darrell is worried that something bad might happen. He is scared, nervous, and down in the dumps.

Brittany is one of the ‘popular’ girls. She sometimes has trouble letting people know who the real Brittany is. She is very good at masking her true emotions. In this instance, her dad has recently returned from a 12-month deployment. Her dad is being very quiet, a bit standoffish, and not having much to do with Brittany. She is pretending that his actions don’t bother her, but in truth, she is really hurting.

Pablo is a fun kid. He generally likes attention and sometimes talks a bit much. His mom is deployed overseas for the second time. His dad is being very strict at home and he is feeling like his mom doesn’t care about him. Pablo is very frustrated by this and takes his frustrations out on other people.

In the DVD, “With You All the Way,” I send the characters on a field trip to a history museum. At the museum, Jack and Skye learn lots of great pointers from some legendary military leaders about deployment. They then share everything they learn with their friends, and like all of our shows, there will be lots of laughing along the way.

Someone once asked me, “Trevor, why do kids relate so well to your characters?” Well, it is simple, really. First of all, they are all funny and have good senses of humor. However, kids easily relate to these characters because the characters share their same issues and problems. Kids know that they are not alone with some of the stresses they are facing. We try to never shy away from being real and telling the story from a child’s perspective.

I can’t wait until the movie is released. We just showed it to a small group of youth professionals in Europe and we got some great feedback. In fact, I am with one of those youth professionals now! Dorothy Choate, Chief of Family Members Programs at Ramstein Air Force Base, has been a really good friend and a great supporter of ours for years. She has also been instrumental in helping us develop materials for military children. After viewing the movie, Dorothy said, “This is exactly the type of resource we need. It is on target and addresses not only the real feelings and behaviors that our military youth face, but it also addresses the complexity of the distinct and different phases of deployments.”

To wrap up this blog, let me say how honored I am to have worked with the USO on this project. I was born in South Africa, but now I am a proud American. As an American, it is a really great feeling for me to be able to help our military kids. I myself served in South Africa, and I know how it feels to be deployed and away from your family. I can tell you from several years of personal experience working with the USO and DoDEA, these kids need a little extra support. The strain of multiple deployments really takes its toll on the whole family. If this DVD can give these kids just a little support, some hope and inspiration, and validation of what they are feeling, it will make me extremely happy and proud.

Trevor Romain CompanyTrevor Romain is an award-winning author and illustrator of a series of self-help books for children, Trevor is a much sought-after motivational speaker. He hosts the Trevor Romain animated DVD series with a cast of animated friends using humorous adventures based on his books to teach real life lessons for kids.  The DVD “With You All the Way” will soon be available online and at various USO centers.  The deployment kits that include the DVD will soon be available from the Trevor Romain Foundation as well. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Trever Romain and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.