Memorial Day gives us pause to honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedom. But there are others who make tremendous sacrifices for us, as well: the children of those heroes.
When a soldier is deployed, the effect on his or her family can be profound. When that soldier is injured or killed in combat, it can be devastating. A Tampa Bay area author and former U.S. Central Command threat analyst has written two picture books to help military children cope with a parent's injury and take pride in the work they do.
Kristen Zajac left government work behind after her twins were born in 2008, but her passion for those she left behind remained strong. When she realized there were not many books available for children of wounded veterans, she set out to change that.
Books Tell Military Stories Through Eyes of a Child
Ebeneezer's Cousin, Zajac's first book, is about a young girl, Maria, whose father returns home from combat with an injury, quiet, withdrawn and in need of assistance from the family. Her stuffed animal monkey, Ebeneezer, always tagged along on their adventures between deployments, but things have changed. Maria and Ebeneezer help her father recapture his former spirit and independence.
Chasing the Spirit of Service, Zajac's second publication, is about Emma, a young girl from three generations of Air Force pilots who misses her father when he travels. Emma’s great grandfather, one of the first African American pilots during World War II, shares his life story as a Tuskegee Airman with Emma and her best friend and helps them appreciate the spirit of service.
How to Get or Gift the Books
Ebeneezer's Cousin, illustrated by Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell, is available from Guardian Angel Publishing.
Through the Friends of Ebeneezer program, you also can purchase a copy of Ebeneezer's Cousin that will be sent directly to a wounded veteran's family, with shipping costs paid by the publisher.
"My wish this Memorial Day is for all the military families who have lost a loved one in service to this country to know how deeply sorry we are for their loss and how profoundly grateful we are for their loved one's fine work and spirit of service," Zajac wrote in an email. "My hope for the Tampa Bay area is that all the children and grandchildren of our veterans are not forgotten and are surrounded by an outpouring of support from the community, not only this Memorial Day, but year round.
"Today we remember and pay tribute to our fallen heroes and those they left behind. May we as a community also remember, honor, and support those servicemen and women who have returned home wounded and are undergoing treatment at the local James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. We lift you up in heart and prayer today as well and appreciate your sacrifices very much."
For details, visit www.kristenzajac.com.