WASHINGTON, (Army News Service, Dec. 22, 2006) -- Elmo and the characters of Sesame Street are going to give Americans a chance to see what military families go through when their loved ones deploy to war zones.
Sesame Street will air "When Parents Are Deployed" on most Public Broadcasting System stations Dec. 27. Armed Forces Network stations will air the special in January.
"The special focuses on giving people an understanding of the sacrifices servicemembers' families make in a deployment," said Barbara Goodno, a senior program analyst with the Pentagon's Office of Family Policy.
Elmo, the fuzzy red puppet who is perpetually three years old, is the star of the program. Viewers see the deployment through his eyes.
"When Parents Are Deployed" may have puppets, but it's a program parents and older siblings can watch, too, said Leslye Arsht, under secretary for military community and family policy. "Elmo is someone with whom people of all ages can relate."
Arsht said the producers listened to family and expert feedback to ensure the program meets families' needs.
The special is an outgrowth of a DVD entitled "Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment." Sesame Street released that DVD in July, and it is available in both English and Spanish versions.
In that program, Elmo's father has to be away from home for a while, and the whole family needs to find ways to adjust during his absence. Wal-Mart and other sponsors provided the funding to distribute the DVD and an accompanying booklet to schools, childcare centers and military family support centers.
The DVD set and television program capture the many emotions associated with deployments-the fears and worries before departure, the loneliness and concern while a loved one is away and the anxiety often associated with reunion, Arsht said.
The Defense Department has made tremendous strides in providing resources for military families, Arsht said.
"DoD has many support systems to support good physical, emotional, spiritual, educational and social health," she said.
On installations, these services center around family support centers. These centers provide a network for families and offer information and education programs to assist with tasks of daily living, Arsht said.
DoD conducted research that shows the key elements to coping with deployment stresses are communication, outreach, information resources and access to unit leadership, Arsht said.
One of the most popular resources available for families is Military OneSource. Troops and families can get help or information by visiting the Military OneSource Web site or calling, toll free, 1-800-342-9647.
Military OneSource provides counseling or information to servicemembers and families at no charge, and it runs the gamut from child care to personal finances to emotional support during deployments. It also provides relocation advice or helps set up resources for special circumstances. It is open 24-7.
Access to this type of support is particularly important for family members of deployed reserve component personnel, Arsht said.
Another important resource is Military Homefront. This official DoD Web site offers reliable quality of life information tailored for three specific groups: servicemembers and families, leaders and service providers.