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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Deborah, center, present commemorative books "For Children of Valor" to Army Capt. Marissa Alexander and her twin children Avery and Alaya at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 15, 2009.

ARLINGTON, Va., May 17, 2009 - Generals, congressmen and, in many cases, presidents of the United States have attended military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery here and given their condolences to children who have lost loved ones to war.

But for many of those unfortunate children, it may still be difficult to understand the honor of their loved ones' sacrifices and what it means for a servicemember to be buried here.

A new book titled "For Children of Valor: Arlington National Cemetery" is dedicated to helping children and families of the fallen buried here to cope with their loss. Five such families, representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were presented with first-edition copies of the book during a May 15 ceremony at the cemetery's information center.

"This small gift conveys our admiration and our respect by acknowledging the pain and the loss these sacrifices must bring," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Carl H. McNair, Jr., president and chairman of the Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project. "We wanted to provide a gift that captures the honor of Arlington National Cemetery.

"May this gift bring the spirit and fond memories of your family a little closer to home, and may you gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the hallowed grounds on which we stand," McNair said.

The Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project produced the book in conjunction with illustration and photography support from the Washington Post. Dr. Stephen J. Cozza, a retired Army colonel, advised and helped author portions of the book.

Cozza is a psychiatrist and expert in child trauma currently serving as a professor with the Uniformed Service University of Health Sciences, Children's author Linda Tyler wrote the main text, and artist Deborah Withey illustrated the book.

The 52-page book is filled with somber images of children and families visiting the cemetery, as well as colorful patriotic graphics typical of an elementary school arts-and-craft project. Educational messages and information about Arlington cemetery history appear on the pages. There is also a section of artwork toward the back of the book for children to color in themselves.

During the ceremony, Army Secretary Pete Geren spoke of the sacrifices made by the more than 340,000 American military members buried here since the Revolutionary War as well as the millions of others buried elsewhere throughout the world. He credited the families of the fallen for supporting their military loved ones despite the frightening realities of war. The families are heroes, too, he said.

"Military families are the strength behind our servicemembers," he said. "The families don't get medals, but they're heroes, and these heroes come in all ages and sizes."

Americans are indebted to the families for their sacrifices, he added. "For Children of Valor" is an "expression of gratitude from the heart of a grateful nation."

Angie Capra said it was a great honor for her and her family to be a part of the presentation ceremony. Capra and her five children, Mark, 12, Victoria, 10, Jared, 7, Shawn, 5, and Adrianna, 3, were recognized for the loss of husband and father, Air Force Tech Sgt. Anthony L. Capra.

"The book is great," said Capra, who drives about 40 miles from Fredricksburg, Va., to visit her husband's grave here at least once a month. "It's a wonderful memory for my children to have, and to know that people still think of their father and honor him and everyone else who've lost their life in combat."

Tech Sgt. Capra was killed in northern Iraq in April 2008. He was an explosive ordnance technician whose job was to dismantle and handle insurgent-made bombs, which have claimed the majority of the civilian and coalition lives lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

"My husband went into the service wanting to do his part at whatever the cost, so we accepted that a long time ago," she said, adding that her and husband were both "Air Force brats" and met more than 13 years ago when their parents were stationed in Turkey. "[The presentation] is a great honor for our family."

Other families recognized at the presentation were:

-- Marissa Alexander and 3 -year-old twins Avery and Alaya who survive Army Staff Sgt. Leroy Alexander, a Special Forces engineer killed in Afghanistan in June 3, 2005.

-- Lisa Dolan and her son, Beau, and daughter, Rebecca, survive Navy Capt. Robert E. Dolan, killed in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

-- Terry Valentine, along with her son, John, and daughter, Meghan, survive Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas J. Valentine, a Navy SEAL who died during a pre-deployment airborne operation Feb. 13, 2008, in Casa Grande, Ariz.

-- Pamela Zembiec and her daughter Fallyn survive Marine Maj. Douglas Zembiec, killed May 11, 2007, in Baghdad.

"For Children of Valor" follows the publication "Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery," which was also produced by The Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project, in conjunction with National Geographic, and Rich Clarkson and Associates. "Where Valor Rests" was released two years ago today as a salute to members of the U.S. armed forces who are buried here.

Page last updated Mon May 18th, 2009 at 06:41