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Tell Me A Story: Texas Military Forces Children Listen

Children – and a few parents -- listen to an adult volunteer read “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” during the Tell Me a Story™ event sponsored by the Texas Military Forces State Family Program in Austin March 29. (Texas Military Forces photo by Sgt. Ann Benson)

Children – and a few parents -- listen to an adult volunteer read “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” during the Tell Me a Story™ event sponsored by the Texas Military Forces State Family Program in Austin March 29. (Texas Military Forces photo by Sgt. Ann Benson)

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Military Forces State Family Program held its first Tell Me A Story event for Texas Military Forces children and their parents March 29 in the Town Lake Ballroom of the Radisson Hotel and Suites in downtown Austin.

Tell Me A Story (TMAS) is a program initiative of Military Child Education Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of military children. The purpose of TMAS is "to empower military children by using literature and their own stories in a way that fosters skills for resilience through strong peer and parent connections within a caring community." The Texas Military Forces State Family Program hopes this inaugural event will be the first of many more TMAS events in Austin and other communities throughout Texas.

"This is not just a unit program," said Cappy Rodriguez, the family program's TMAS director. "It is going to be a community program."

Mrs. Rodriguez said there are 12 books in the TMAS program. "Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot" by Margot Theis Raven is the first book. Mrs. Rodriguez added that the book teaches the children about generosity to others in need.

The book tells the true story of a little girl named Mercedes in Germany during the aftermath of World War II. Mercedes sends a letter to a U.S. pilot, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who secretly drops little white parachutes chocolate and other candy to the children in war-torn country.

Approximately 40 military children and their families were there to listen to Brig. Gen. Joyce L. Stevens, Texas Army National Guard deputy commander for operations, read the story while a slide slow presentation of the illustrations was shown on a big screen. Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, Texas Army National Guard commander, also read the story in Spanish for some of the children as well. The children were then divided into small groups to discuss the book.

The children received a free copy of the book to take home. Several children had their book signed by General Stevens, General Mayorga and representatives from the Berlin Airlift Association.

Mrs. Rodriguez said she heard about the program about two or three years ago and thought it would be the best program for Texas Military Forces.

"Our children don't always see themselves as military kids," said Mrs. Rodriguez, who explained that whereas children of active duty Soldiers see themselves as military kids, children of parents in the Guard and the Reserves who deploy overseas see themselves as every other kid, although that isn't quite the case.

Mrs. Rodriguez noted that it took a number of volunteers and supporters to get the program started. They held their first TMAS event in conjunction with the annual conference of the National Guard Association of Texas to help get the word out about the program and attract other volunteers and supporters.

Anyone would like to volunteer for TMAS or any other program may contact Deborah Evans at (512) 782-5322 or (512) 560-1182.