- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

ERLANGER, Ky. (AP) - He’s soft and cuddly, but a mighty protector. He’s Troop on the Stoop.

Created by Erlanger resident Blake Wayman, 32, Troop on the Stoop is the military equivalent to Elf on the Shelf.

Each Troop, a plush doll clad in military fatigues and big smile, comes with a photo frame and book, written by Wayman. The book provides a glimpse into the life of a military family. Troop is available in dark and light skins and a female Troop is in the works.

Troop was a project three years in the making, according to Wayman.

“It all started three years ago. After my service in the Army, I took a job in health care. I was at Cincinnati Children’s and there was a little girl there from Phoenix who had cancer. Both of her parents were serving in the military and I wanted to do something special for her.”

As he left her room, he noticed an Elf on the Shelf placed at the nurse’s station desk.

“Troop … stoop … Troop on the Stoop, just came to my mind,” Wayman said.

“Back when I was serving overseas, my mom and dad would send me care packages. I’d sit on the steps, handing out items, sharing with others, a lot of guys didn’t get packages. After several times of this, the guys started calling this time: ‘Rally on Wayman’s Stoop.’ It stuck with me.”

Troop made his debut in July.

“Troop is special because he is a reminder to military children of their dad or mom,” he said. “Troop is there to look over the household and play. He’s always there, always watching out for them.”

According to Wayman, Troop is now guarding more than 600 homes.

Troop is part of the family for the Coutures who live in Tennessee.

“This is deployment No. 4 since our son was born,” Sara Couture said. “Troop is perfect for us. Our son is 4 1/2 and our daughter is 2. Having Troop around has made such a difference in the way my son has reacted to the deployment this time. We read the book and introduced Troop before my husband left. He told him ‘Troop will stay with you while daddy’s gone.’”

Couture said that her son takes Troop everywhere and tells others all about him.

“He tells people at the grocery store, the waitress at the restaurant, everyone: ‘Troop is staying with us while daddy is over the ocean,’” she said. “We love Troop.”

Montana Flinn in Oklahoma said that Troop is her 11-month-old daughter’s “go-to toy.”

“We received a donated Troop as a gift,” Flinn said. “Troop means a lot to us. My husband is missing our daughter’s first holidays and birthday. Troop is here while daddy can’t be. She’s too young to understand, but she loves Troop. I do too.”

Troop on the Stoop is available at www.TroopontheStoop.com. Donation Troops can also be purchased for military families in need. Five percent of all sales benefits The Yellow Ribbon Support Center, which was started in honor of the late POW Sgt. Matt Maupin. The center is dedicated to all of the military personnel currently assigned overseas, as well as moral support to the loved ones left behind. The center has shipped more 21,000 packages and awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships.

Wayman said he is happy and thankful that Troop on the Stoop is making a difference.

“Seeing what Troop is doing for a child makes me feel really good,” he said. “It’s a feeling you can’t really describe. Troop is really for any child. He teaches about the military and he’s a good way to boost conversation about serving this country.”

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Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, https://www.nky.com

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