by Airman 1st Class Jessica Hines
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE Colo. — What can an Air Force parent learn from a three and a half year old furry red monster with large white eyes and an orange nose? Well, you might just be surprised.
Elmo and his friends paid a special visit to Peterson AFB July 31, to talk about an issue affecting a large portion of military families, deployments and homecomings.
Discussing deployments can be difficult with a child of any age, especially a toddler. With a little help from Sesame Street and the USO, parents now have one more resource designed with them in mind when approaching the topic with their children.
The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families is based on a workshop called, “Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes.” It is an educational outreach initiative that addresses the needs and concerns of today’s growing military families as they face higher deployment rates.
Saturday’s show brought out Elmo, the Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Rosita and Zoe, all who appeared in two 25-minute performances at the base auditorium for free. The characters went into the audience several times to greet and meet children and parents as they helped their friend Elmo think of ways to overcome being sad because his father had to go away for work.
“We try to give (families) some concrete things – writing letters, telling stories, making music with their friends or talking online,” said Lonnie Copper, tour manager for the show.
Along with the performance, families received free toys for children and information packets for parents, which included a booklet and DVD set for parents and children to share together at home.
“We get to entertain and educate,” said Mr. Cooper. “You get great smiles from the kids, but also from the parents.”
As one parent entered the auditorium she exclaimed, “I love Elmo, I mean I’m here for the kids.”
Master Sgt. Don Russo, Air Force Space Command logistics, brought his wife and three children, who embraced the spirit of Sesame Street by wearing matching Elmo shirts, for the show. His son, six-year-old Nicholas, enjoyed every part of the performance and said he would do many of the things Elmo did with his dad to stay in-touch during his father’s next deployment.
“It’s a fantastic family event, and the price is right,” said Sergeant Russo. “We really enjoyed it.”
DVDs available at the performance included full-length shows for children to watch about Elmo and his family as he deals with his dad going away for work. It also shows other military families and their stories of deployments and what they do to stay close together during periods of separation.
The “Talk, Listen, Connect” workshop also encourages parents to talk with their children and help them express their feelings when a parent deploys. What changes they can expect and what will stay the same. The program also addresses the sensitive issue of an injured parent.
As the ways in which the military approaches war changes, so do the ways in which warriors stay in-touch. Now more than ever, servicemembers have far greater resources to stay close to loved ones while deployed.
Families play a vital role in the well-being of servicemembers and by facilitating healthy communication they build strong relationships they can take with them wherever their career may go.
To learn more about the initiative and use online resources visit: www.sesameworkshop.org/initiatives/emotion/tlc