Keiki’s books celebrate Army birthday

| June 11, 2010 | 0 Comments

Dona Fair
Army News Service

Angela Schoffstall, left, a visual information specialist, and Donna McGrath, sports and fitness program manager for Child, Youth and School Services, both of the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, display marketing materials for the Army’s 235th birthday this year. Schoffstall illustrated and McGrath co-wrote the book entitled “Happy Birthday U.S. Army.” (Benjamin Faske | Army News Service)SAN ANTONIO — As the Army prepares to celebrate its 235th birthday, three women have taken the broad theme of the Army’s long tradition and history and transformed it into a series of books designed for children.

The Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command has sponsored a third in a series of children books titled “Happy Birthday U.S. Army,” to help children understand the importance of what their parent or parents do in the Army.

Each of the three books has a centralized theme written by Donna McGrath, sports and fitness program manager for Child, Youth and School Services, and Mary Ellen Pratt, Army Youth Services, and illustrated by Angela Schoffstall, a visual information specialist for FMWRC.

The first book chronicled the Army’s history from the Revolutionary War all the way to present-day Soldiers, including the Civil War, the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and women entering into the armed services. 

The second book is entitled “Sam the Army Dog” and chronicles the life of Sam, who belongs to an Army family and dreams about someday becoming an Army dog.

This year’s book is really a culmination of both books; it’s been redesigned to show a patriotic look.

“Since the stories were from a child’s point of view, the books should look like a child had drawn the story, so that’s how it all kind of started,” said Schoffstall. “I wanted the children to want to pick up the book. I wanted them to be colorful and to take a little history of the Army and help them to understand what their mother, father, brother or sister might do in the Army.”

“Angela did a wonderful job illustrating the book this year, because it includes illustrations from the last two years of birthdays the Army has celebrated throughout the world,” said McGrath. “This year we specifically mentioned the National Guard and Army Reserve because we wanted to be all inclusive.”

While the books are aimed primarily for children, McGrath is hopeful the books will help others see that the Army cares about military families and military youth.

“We want to ensure that our children in our child development centers know that the Army cares about them,” she said. “It is important to recognize that Soldiers are moms and dads. We have so many Soldiers deploying right know that children want to know what their parents are doing when they are deployed. They want to know that they are still in touch with their parents.

“We had parents who were deployed reading our books on video,” McGrath continued. “It really brings the families together. Although they are separated, they can be together for a short time even though it is through a videotape.”

During this year’s celebration of the Army birthday, many members of the Army’s senior leadership, including the Secretary of the Army, will be reading the final book to children around the world.

“I think the premise for all three renditions of the book is to show that Army leadership cares about the Army families,” said McGrath. “They know that Army families are resilient and strong, and that even though there have been many deployments for many parents, the children and families will survive.”

All three books are available online at or at local Child, Youth and School Services centers.

Category: Army News Service, Community

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