Quartermaster Soldier Makes Children's Book a Family Affair
April 23, 2009
<b>HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga.</b> -- When a Soldier deploys, he or she has a responsibility to help their children deal with the deployment. Staff Sergeant James Menard helped his now 5-year-old son Gabe by writing him a children's book.
"Prior to my  deployment to Iraq, I wanted to write him something that he could remember that we did together," Staff Sgt. Menard said.
Once Staff Sgt. Menard, a shower, laundry, and clothing repair specialist with 473rd Quartermaster Company, 260th QM Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, was finished with the story, he sent it to his brother, John, who did the illustrations.
The book, "The Bees and the Bears," was published in November 2008 by Author House. The father of two, Gabe and Malachi, 2, with wife Danielle, thought of the idea to write his eldest son a book two years ago while he was away from home at school.
"I thought of the idea when I was at E5 school," Staff Sgt. Menard said. "A lot of people give a Family heirloom to their children. I don't have a lot of things like that, but I do have an imagination and I wanted to give him something that was from me to him that would be his very own."
Staff Sergeant Menard said that he enjoyed making the book into a family project.
"To incorporate my brother into this, it made it into a family book rather than something I just did on my own," said Staff Sgt. Menard. "It showed two different talents from two different people, in one book, from one family."
The book was finished while Staff Sgt. Menard was in Iraq, and the family made it into a make-shift book, with computer printouts stapled together.
"Once my brother was done with his drawings, I was still in Iraq, so my wife took the (pages), stapled it together and made our own little book out of it," said the Ocala, Fla., native. "She continued to read it to him even though I was still in Iraq, and sometimes I'd get on the phone and read it to him and he'd follow along. It made it more concrete ... that I'll be home reading it to him soon."
The book tells the story of a little girl bee, Gaby, who is carefree, but finds herself in a jam when she stumbles into the plan of two bears to take their hive. Gaby then has to take charge to save her home.
"I think it's a story that a lot of people fall into, that sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort (zone) to do something great," Staff Sgt. Menard said. "It's what you do with that opportunity that will show success or failure. With Gaby, it was her opportunity, her time, to do something."
Despite the bee's name closely-resembling Staff Sgt. Menard's son, Gabe, he says that the story isn't gender-specific. He just let his imagination carry him through the story.
"If I can be a staff sergeant in the Army and I can write a children's book and still be successful in the Army, then I think that everyone can still use their imagination and put it toward the greater good," he said. "If you lose your imagination, you lost a lot of your spirit."
Staff Sergeant Menard said that he was like Gaby, the "lackadaisical little bee," before joining the Army nine years ago.
"I was like Gaby, I didn't take charge of my life until I joined the Army and started trying to do something bigger than myself," he said.
Now a published author, Staff Sgt. Menard is currently working on a book for his younger son. The book is in the editing stages, and the Soldier recently sent a copy to his brother to begin the drawings.
"It's a story of a lot of diversity, and the change in life that someone has to go through," Staff Sgt. Menard said. "[The story] has a lot of antics, and the character does a lot of things out of the norm. But it's got a lot of happiness, and it's got a great ending, too. It's capturing some of Malachi's care-free spirit."
Staff Sergeant Menard believes his writing has not only helped his sons deal with his life as a Soldier, it has also helped him deal with the every-day stress of being in the Army.
"With deployments and the stress that most Soldiers have been under, they have to find a balance [with work and their family life]. I do it through writing books," said Staff Sgt. Menard. "When I was in Iraq, I wrote (daily journals) and it made it easier, to have a way to vent with the stresses of every day."