Countdown ideas for deployment

Countdown calendar instructions (Her War, Her Voice)
I have found this calendar a great way for my young children to count down the return of their
Papa. It can be done in many creative ways. This is a picture of the most basic... Free


Dog tags, military coins, etc.
This is a grassroots effort to show our support for the troops and their families. We tried to think of something we could send Dad or Mom that they could easily send back to their kids. This is something easy to ship and something the kids can hang on to until Dad or Mom gets back home. Free
Military brat dog tags and military brat coins available in each branch of service. Crest of the military wife is also available for purchase.
Sells plush uniformed teddy bears, military brat dog tags and various branches of service Brat coins. (Uniform Accessories Unlimited)
Sells plush uniformed teddy bears, army brat dog tags, "My Dad Fights for our Freedom" coin.
Sells We Serve Too! (Be Strong and Courageous!) dog tags and We Serve Too! (We just make the best of it) dog tags.



Military Youth Coping With Separation
When Family Members Deploy
This video program is designed specifically for older children and adolescents as they face military deployment in their family. This product was developed by military pediatricians and adolescent medicine specialists to help military youth understand that they are not alone as they experience family separation. It provides tools for young people to use to begin to understand and cope in healthy ways with their feelings and emotions related to a military deployment.

Mr. Poe and Friends Discuss Family Reunion After Deployment
This video helps families deal with deployment separation stress in healthy, positive ways. This kit covers all phases of deployment, especially family integration. Written and performed by children and their parents who have experienced deployment, it presents common scenarios that most families face.

Sesame Street's Little Children, BIG Challenges
Little Children, Big Challenges is designed to introduce the skills and strategies young children (ages 2 to 5) need to build resilience and persevere through day-today challenges, such as beating the bedtime blues, trying new things and making new friends and also significant transitions and situations such as mean or aggressive behavior, sibling rivalry and relocation. This bilingual Family Guide includes a Sesame Street DVD featuring a Muppet story and music videos with real children and families as well as a Family Guide with tips and strategies.

Sesame Street’s Talk, Listen, and Connect
Deployments, Homecomings, Changes
This bilingual multimedia outreach program is designed to support military families with children between the ages of two and five as they cope with the feelings and concerns experienced during different phases of deployment. The kit comes with the DVD and additional parent/caregiver materials.


Fabric Family

Fabric Family
Fabric Family was developed during the wildly successful Flat Daddies phenomena. Fabric Families were created as a way for children and loved ones to give deployed service members a unique, inexpensive, and versatile life-size family photo. A big familiar image, which they can keep with them at all times and hang wherever they are, to make their space feel closer to home.


Flat Brat

Flat Brat TM
Flat Brat
Flat Brat TM was developed as a joint effort by Benita Koeman and Beth Allen to bring another colorable project to military kids to help them through deployments. Beth is a military supporter and the creator of Troops In Touch interactive postcards and  Benita is a military wife, founder of Operation We Are Here, and creator of Brat Town Bugle: A Publication of Non-Recruits in Big Boots.

They developed Flat Brat TM to be gender and race neutral, and specific to military children (aka military brats), something that would help bridge the gap between the deployed parent and military child. Free


Flat Daddies, Flat Mommies

Flat Daddies, Flat Mommies
Flat Daddies and Flat Mommies are life-sized printed posters (waist and up) of parents who are actively serving overseas in the military. Flat Daddies were created as a way to help younger children and families stay connected to their loved ones serving extended periods of time away from home.


Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley
The basic principle of The Flat Stanley Project is to connect your child, student or classroom with other children or classrooms participating in the Project by sending out "flat" visitors, created by the children, through the mail (or digitally, with The Flat Stanley app). Kids then talk about, track, and write about their flat character's journey and adventures. Although similar to a pen-pal activity, Flat Stanley is actually much more enriching-students don't have to wonder where to begin or what to write about. The sender and the recipient already have a mutual friend, Flat Stanley. Writing and learning becomes easier, flows naturally, and tends to be more creative. This is what teachers call an "authentic" literacy project, in that kids are inspired to write of their own passion and excitement about the project, and given the freedom to write about many things through the rubric of the Flat Stanley character.

Templates include Drill Sergeant Stan, Captain Stella...  Free


Grants for sports, fine arts, academic tutoring programs

Our Military Kids (National Guard/Reserve)
If you or your spouse are in the National Guard or Reserves and are deployed overseas, Our Military Kids can help pay for sports, fine arts and tutoring programs for your children. Free


Hero Helpers - Lifesize cardboard person

Hero Helpers - Lifesize Cardboard Cutout of your Military Service Member have launched a special program for military families with a loved one currently deployed on active duty. As a special way to thank our armed forces, we would like to announce the arrival of Hero Helpers

Hero Helpers are life size cardboard cutouts made from any picture you send in. We know how hard it is having a loved one be away for prolonged periods of time, and wanted a way to show our appreciation for their sacrifice.


Homecoming Box

Homecoming Box instructions - We Serve Too  (click on Homecoming Box Discussion Guide)
The Homecoming Box concept was developed by Kathleen Edick and Paula Johnson (authors of We Serve Too!, We Serve Too! 2 and The Homecoming Box child deployment and reunion books). It has three purposes:
  • The deployed parent knows you are collecting memories on their behalf
  • The spouse and children have an ongoing project that causes them to think about their loved one in every situation
  • Another benefit is that when a child wants the deployed parent there, and is not consoled by words, the search for the best possible symbol for the box allows the child to actively do something to preserve the memory.

The website has downloadable instructions to create your own Homecoming Box as well as instructions to create your own Tear BottleFree


Honorary teammate

Operation Teammate
Operation Teammate provides an opportunity for sports teams to welcome children of military and first responder parents as honorary teammates during times of separation.

Operation Teammate at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, is a children's focused organization engaged in teaming up the sons and daughters of all branches of the military, and a variety of first responders. We give these children a memorable team experience by pairing them with local sports teams who make them honorary members during that time of separation.

With extensive research and more than 3,000 hours of community involvement, we have found athletic and community organizations are more than happy to join our cause. We don't just assist children while their parents are away; we help build their character so they become significant members of the community like their parents.

At Operation Teammate, we understand how tough it is for children to be separated from their parents. While you are on duty and deployed across the globe, we provide an opportunity for them to grow as people.


Horseback riding sessions

Operation Free Ride (Horses for Heroes)
An opportunity to ride a horse for freeOperation Free Ride is a program that offers weekly, hosted or sponsored horseback riding sessions that are free for every member of their family! This program serves military families with a deployed family member, as well as families who have a family member with a disability or serious illness. While our program is not able to serve the needs of the developmentally disabled or those with serious or terminal illnesses, we invite the other family members to enjoy the distractions and benefits to body and soul that only a day with horses can provide.

Operation Free Ride is just one of the programs that help Horses4Heroes fulfill its mission to make horseback riding affordable for, and accessible to, the families of the heroes in our community including, but not limited to: active duty military personnel, Veterans, law enforcement officers, fire fighters/EMTs, critical care and hospice nurses and others.



Deployment Kids
This website has journaling ideas to get kids started in journaling about their parent's deployment.

Deployment journals


Mentoring by big brother/big sister

Operation Bigs - Military mentoring (San Diego, CA)
Children with a parent in the military, including a deployed parent, face unique challenges that may include separation and loss in addition to the stresses of military life. To help provide the additional support these children need, Big Brothers Big Sisters has established a program called the Military Mentoring Program. It joins children of parents in the military with Bigs who are in the military, retired or civilian.

San Diego is home to 800,000 active and retired military personnel and their dependents, the largest population in the US. In an effort to serve this population more effectively, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County designed the Operation Bigs program, which provides mentors to children of military families through Big Brothers Big Sisters' School/Site-Based program.

San Diego is home to 800,000 active and retired military personnel and their dependents, the largest population in the US. In an effort to serve this population more effectively, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County designed the Operation Bigs program, which provides mentors to children of military families through Big Brothers Big Sisters' School/Site-Based program.



Brat Town Bugle: A Publication of Non-Recruits in Big Boots
Brat Town Bugle
Brat Town Bugle is a free, downloadable newspaper to help bridge the gap between home front kids and their geographically separated parent. 70+ pages to choose from! Free


Photo quilts

Operation Kid Comfort
ASYMCA’s (Armed Services YMCA) Operation Kid Comfort is designed to address the emotional stress that children of military personnel suffer during a parent’s absence from home. Operation Kid Comfort provide free quilts for children six and under and pillows for children age seven and up.  ASYMCA volunteers collect photographs from military families to make “photo-transfer” quilts that feature images of the deployed family member. Photographs of the deployed parent are scanned into a computer, printed, and placed onto the fabric. The quilt is then given to the child to play with, sleep with, or use to comfort them from the grief of missing their deployed parent. Free (must pay shipping costs)


Pillows, pillowcases

Be Loved Pillow
The be loved pillow has a deep soft interior.
Perfect for you... to put treasures inside (photographs, letters, memorabilia)
Perfect for you... to have and to hug and to rest your head on (because it is so soft)
Perfect for you... to keep, to gift, or both! (because you're so sweet)

The Be Loved Pillow is perfect for our military families experiencing a deployment because it provides a place for letters, photos and mementos to be kept, turning those cherished things into something warm and hug-able, (as well as being a soft sturdy compact head pillow for our soldiers)

Deployment pillow case/pillow (My Pillow Partner)
Hold him in your arms while he's away. Wouldn't it be great for you and your children to have a body pillow to keep you warm and cozy while your Soldier is away? My Pillow Partner sells a Deployment Pillow case (purchase pillow separately on their site) with a photo of your Soldier.

Sweet Dreams Picture Pillow
The Sweet Dream Picture Pillows are available to the children of any family whose father or mother is on active duty and will be absent from their family for at least three months. All pillows are provided at no charge! We do ask for a contribution to pay for shipping and handling after you order your pillow. Free (must pay shipping costs)


Also visit this LINK for an exhaustive listing of books for military children and teens.

A Story Before Bed
Record yourself reading a story to your children! A Story Before Bed is giving away 250,000 FREE RECORDINGS to parents (aunts, uncles, etc.) in the U.S. Armed forces who are deploying or already deployed away from their children for any amount of time.

Readeo - See, hear and read with each other even when you're far away!  (Ages 0-8)
Readeo was founded in 2009 by CEO Coby Neuenschwander while living in Chicago with his son Oliver. Because of the distance between Oliver and his grandparents, they were having trouble establishing a meaningful relationship. Visits only happened a couple of times per year, phone calls were inadequate, and video chat alone didn’t hold Oliver’s attention. Reading together became the vehicle for establishing and strengthening the relationship between grandparent and grandchild.

Today, Readeo is a patent-pending product that combines the best children’s books with high-quality video chat to create a shared reading experience called BookChatTM where people can see, hear, read and interact with grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and others—just as you would if you were in the same room. Readeo allows families to connect and interact in a meaningful way—even when they may be far apart.

United through Reading
The United Through Reading® Military Program helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having deployed parents read children’s books aloud via DVD for their child to watch at home.

This powerful program is available to all deploying military units and at select USO locations. It provides parents a chance to make powerful and lasting connections with their children and parent from afar.


Reading - Create your own book

Daddy's Deployed (Daddy version, Mommy version)
The only military book of its kind: Daddy's Deployed is a completely customized children's book for those with a parent deploying. The book features the name, gender, and physical attributes of, not only the child, but the parents as well! - Where your child becomes the star of his or her own story
With MyOwnStory, caregivers can create customized children’s books for special situations in a child’s life. Our stories were prepared under the careful guidance of educators, doctors, and child development specialists. Our collection of stories covers subject matter that is significant to children and their families, such as having a new baby in the family, the first day of school, going to the dentist, moving to a new city and many more. Once you customize these stories, they are yours to save, print and enjoy for years to come. The stories, Daddy is in the Military and Mommy is in the Military, are FREE.

Over There Activity Book (Daddy version, Mommy version)
Here is an opportunity to create your own Over There children's book!  Download the PDF (either the mommy version or the daddy version, depending on which parent is deployed), print it out, and attach photos that represent the spirit of the text.  If you and your child are feeling extra creative, you can even draw your own illustrations. Do whatever feels right to capture your family's unique deployment story. After completing the book, keep it on hand and read it to your child as often as each of you would like. Free pdf

Creating a book with Tikatok is a simple and fun way for you and your child to express imagination and creativity.
1. Write your story.
2. Add pictures.
3. Order your book (hard cover, soft cover, or e-book download)


Reading - Recordable books

Recordable Storybooks from DaySpring feature exclusive voice-capture technology that enables a person to record each page of a book and have it played back over and over as the recipient turns the pages. The recording will not be lost, even when the batteries need to be replaced.

The original books were designed for an adult to read to a child. Subsequent titles also are perfect for adults and children to record together or for children to record for a grandparent.

Recordable Storybooks are available at Christian retail stores nationwide. Use the store locator on to find your nearest Christian retail store.

Hallmark’s new Recordable Storybooks allow someone like a parent or grandparent to “read” a book to a child, even when they cannot be present. The Recordable Storybook features voice capture technology, recording the reader’s voice, which is captured within the book. When a child turns a page, the book automatically plays the text on that page in the reader’s voice. Hallmark Recordable Storybooks are great alternatives for out-of-town grandparents, parents in the military, or parents who travel on business who still want to “read” to their kids from across the miles. Some titles include: The Night Before Christmas, All the Ways I Love You, and Bright and Beautiful.

Hallmark also sells Conversations To Keep TM - recordable interviews. This fun, together-time activity is filled with open-ended questions that spark imaginative answers only kids can give. Titles include: Dad & Me, Mom & Me, Grandma & Me.

Sparkup - The Magical Book Reader
The Sparkup Magical Book Reader, enables kids to interact with real printed books as they stay connected with family and friends while learning – whether in the same room or across the globe. Watch the video to see how it works. video


Something to hug

Amy Sews

Battalion Buddies
Having already shipped more than 600,000 care packages to service men and women deployed in combat zones, Operation Gratitude is pleased to announce the launch of “Battalion Buddies” — a new program designed to serve and encourage the young children of deploying troops.

In cooperation with Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders nationwide, Operation Gratitude will begin providing special stuffed toys – known as Battalion Buddies – to the sons and daughters of U.S. military personnel as their units prepare to deploy.

U.S. Military: We are happy to send the Battalion Buddies to all the children of a deploying or deployed unit upon request from the rear detachment and/or family readiness officer. Please have the command contact us at so we can make arrangements directly with them for a shipment. (At this time, we do not have the resources to send the Buddies to individual children.) Free (Must request from the rear detachment and/or family readiness officer for a group shipment)

Battle Buddy Bear (Soldier Inspired)

Bear Forces of America
U.S. Air Force Bears, U.S. Army Bears, U.S. Coast Guard Bears, U.S. Marine Corps Bears, U.S. Navy Bears, plus accessories. Size/styles include large, mini, plush and even a gorilla mini bear.

Big Plush
Big Plush sells military teddy bears and monkeys, small, large, and well, super-sized! Some are 6 ft. tall!

Blanket Battle Buddy instructions (Her War, Her Voice)
Tee shirt blankets - I cut up one of my husband’s shirts and one of his uniform jackets. I used fabric and pockets from the uniform to create special places for them to insert photos, letters, or special secrets to their daddy. The fabric crawled. I ran out of thread three times. The ACU uniform was frustrating. The sewing was far from my best. Jagged stitches. Completely less than perfect. But, the absolute delight and snuggled babes made it worth every ounce of my time. Now, I want to cut up all his shirts to make more!! Directions included to make your own Blanket Battle Buddy. Free

Build-A-Bear Workshop
At Build-A-Bear Workshop®, our mission is to bring the Teddy Bear to life. An American icon, the Teddy Bear brings to mind warm thoughts about our childhood, about friendship, about trust and comfort, and also about love. Can customize with voice recordings and military gear.

Chantilly Lane
Sells singing American Heroes bears.

CloudPets can send and receive messages from anywhere in the world!

Cuddletunes Bears
The Cuddlebear keeps military families connected and close - even through deployments around the world. We understand the amazing sacrifice Military families make to serve and protect our country.  Time away and moves across the country can make it a challenge to stay close to those you love. Cuddletunes gives your family a way to send loving messages, read stories and even sing kids to sleep anytime, from anywhere through our durable, soft teddy bear.

It's easy - create a Cuddletunes account online to make your own beautiful and very personalized "soundtrack". Your favorite small child can use the bear to fall asleep to every night - or play with and learn from during the day! New songs and recordings can be quickly and easily added to the bear any time.

The bear is a plush and snuggly 9.5 inches tall, with a specialized MP3 player and speaker built inside. It holds hours of content and has a soft, durable exterior. Buttons sewn into the feet make it easy for even the youngest children to find their favorite "tracks".

Cuddly, military bear by Military Apparel Co.
Simply pick your genuine Military fabric and let Artist Kathy craft you Cuddly, our Military Bear. Outstanding detailed craftsmanship: 5.5 hours of work goes into the bear! This bear has safety eyes so it is a great kids for little...and big kids :) 17 inches from head to toe. 
Visit our EMBELLISH YOUR CREATIONS section to add embroideries, tapes, dog tags and so much more...

Daddy Dolls
Daddy Dolls was started by military spouses that found that children needed tangible things to hold during a deployment.They will print your soldier's picture on a doll, pillow case, teddy bear's shirt, dog tags, etc., and send it to you.    

Deployment Dog (Green Sugar Bean)

Huggee Miss You Doll
Sells digi-camouflage doll with recordable or non-recordable options for children of deployed parents.

Memory Teddy Bear (Kittnbear218)

Military Cuddle Bear (The VanVolkinburgs)
Military Cuddle Bear with keepsake pocket. Made special for those hard times when you just want to hug your service member. Currently in Air Force, Army, Marine and Navy Camo Fabric but you can make special requests and I can try my best to fulfill it. This bear sits up 20" tall and has a special keepsake pocket on the back. You can chose the color of the ribbon or no ribbon. Also chose the button color for the eyes.

Martha's Crafts & Things

My Face on a Figure
By sending a few photos of your face, My Face on a Figure can create an action figure of yourself! Perfect for military families, especially those going through a deployment!

Operation Pillow Pets
Get your military mascot Pillow Pet! Available in Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy.

The Dabby Project
Dabby longs to be the companion of children of deployed service women and men. Dabby's story evolves as she meets new friends in new places! You can volunteer to be a host family for Dabby or her friends.

Uniform Accessories Unlimited
Sells plush uniformed teddy bears, army brat dog tags, "My Dad Fights for our Freedom" coin.

Vermont Teddy Bear
Sells a 15" camoflauge teddy bear, desert camo with t-shirt bear and military bear.


Tear bottle

We Serve Too
The Tear Bottle concept was developed by Kathleen Edick and Paula Johnson (authors of We Serve Too! and We Serve Too! 2 and The Homecoming Box child deployment and reunion books) to accompany The Homecoming Box. How does the Tear Bottle work? Take one "tear", write or draw a representation of the event that brought the tears to the surface on your special strip of paper or ribbon. Drop the tear and the description into the bottle....

The website has downloadable instructions to create your own Tear Bottle. Also has accompanying instructions to create your own Homecoming Box.


The big picture instructions

The Big Picture (Mail yourself to Daddy or Mommy)
Here is a wonderful idea for kids - trace around them so they can send themselves to their Dad or Mom. Details in this blog post by Camo-N-Kids, the creators of the We Serve Too! books. Free
Military children and teens
Deployment (or military separation) resources
To be directed to the complete listing of MILITARY CHILDREN AND TEENS resources, click HERE.
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Copyright 2008 - 2015 Benita Koeman, Operation We Are Here.  All rights reserved.
Operation We Are Here is a HUB of RESOURCES for the military community and military supporters.
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