NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – For the nearly three years that Michelle Ferguson-Cohen’s Army father was deployed to Vietnam, Cohen had a hard time relating to other kids.

“He was gone off and on from the time I was 3 until I was 6,” she said. “Listening to kids tell you that soldiers are nothing but baby killers was hard to deal with.”

Cohen said it was hard to understand. Her father wasn’t a killer. He was her daddy. Her hero.

“Only as an adult did I realize the sacrifice and commitment that my parents made and how my mother made everything seem so normal,” Cohen said.

Now, she said, she has an “awe and respect for military parents and their commitment to raise children in the toughest situations.”

Her newfound adoration combined with the lack of books explaining deployments to military “brats” drove Cohen to write, illustrate and publish – all with her own money – “Daddy, You’re My Hero” and “Mommy, You’re My Hero.”

“Deployments are a lot to deal with on a grown-up level, much less on a child’s level,” said Cohen, who lives in New York City and writes other mainstream children’s books. “What I hear from people is that these books address the issues that they want to address. They explain deployments in a way that doesn’t frighten children.

“It gives them only the amount of information that a child at that age needs.”

Cohen’s books explain, in simple language directed to children 8 and younger why their military parent has to go away and what life will be like when they are gone – details like limited communication and extra help needed around the house.

“Soldiers have told me that they have difficulty explaining deployments to their wives,” Cohen said.

“They said if they couldn’t even explain it to a 30-year-old woman, how could they even start to talk to their children?”

The book does not address the dangers of war because, Cohen said, “kids are dealing with enough with the absence of a parent. All kids need to feel at that age is secure and safe.”

The books started out as an online, illustrated poem. Because so many people visited the site and asked to order a book, Cohen decided to have them printed.

She took her first order in February 2003 and has sold at least 3,000 copies since.

Cohen works closely with military family support groups to get books purchased at bulk rates.

“And a few months ago, Barnes & Noble started selling it in their store,” Cohen said. “But you can still read it for free on the Web site. I just want to make sure that everyone can access it.”

Both titles in hardback and paperback run $12.99 at the bookstore and are available online for $9.99 and $5.99.

“My simple mission is this: Let the children know they are not alone. They are not the only ones going through this. Someone understands,” Cohen said.

Want to read the books for free or purchase a copy online? Call up for a complete reading of both books.

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