- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

Michelle Ferguson-Cohen remembers when she was a child and her father was serving in the Vietnam War. She trekked to the library every night to find solace in fairy tales, Judy Blume’s youth novels and Shakespeare. But there was one kind of book she never found, one that reflected her life as the daughter of a serviceman.

“There wasn’t a book on the shelf I hadn’t read,” Mrs. Cohen said. “And yet I never, ever, ever saw me.”

That’s why she wrote and illustrated two books for children of military families: “Daddy, You’re My Hero!” and “Mommy, You’re My Hero!” The books, intended for 2- to 8-year-olds, contain the text of a poem Mrs. Cohen penned after surveying the destruction of September 11 from her Brooklyn rooftop. Knowing military action would follow, Mrs. Cohen said, “Automatically, my heart went to military families.”

The books depict boys and girls seeing off their military parents and awaiting their return. Colorful drawings accompany rhymes such as: “We’re having a party when daddy comes back / With pizza and ice cream and presents, in fact.”

Think of it as Dr. Seuss for military “brats,” as children of troops describe themselves.

Military families are a community largely overlooked by the press, which leaves children feeling different, said Mrs. Cohen, a former public relations consultant. “It is vital to a person’s self-esteem to see themselves reflected well in the media,” she said.

The author is scheduled to read her poem to more than 500 children at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., in November. She said some children have memorized the poem to cope with their parents’ absence.

Major publishers were reluctant to accept the manuscript, Mrs. Cohen said, so she and her husband published it themselves.

Children shouldn’t be penalized because their parents are in the military, Mrs. Cohen said. “We have to get away from the idea that these families are separate, or that their experience is political. They have every right to be proud of their parents.”

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