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In 2019 I walked along a Florida beach, worried about my son’s upcoming third deployment. Although I laughed when sea gulls stole chips left on a swimmer’s blanket, thoughts of saying goodbye shrouded the sun. During previous deployments, I had never cried when I hugged him goodbye. But that day on the beach tears stung my eyes as I recalled the uncertainty and fear that gripped my heart with each deployment.

I wiped away my tears and watched children play in the surf and fill buckets of sand, and I wondered how children cope when their parents are deployed. My son once told me about a fellow officer who skyped with his toddler during a yearlong absence in Iraq. Whenever her father’s face appeared on the computer screen, his daughter waved and smiled and blew kisses. She knew her daddy’s face and voice, yet when her father returned home and stood in the living room, she didn’t run to embrace him. Instead in bewilderment, she turned toward the computer screen.

The soldier’s story inspired me to write Izzy’s Blueberry Wish. By writing the story and researching organizations devoted to assisting military families, I learned that military children face unique challenges, both educational and emotional. Separation from a parent is wrenching, but with family and community support, children also find unwavering courage.

Izzy’s Blueberry Wish is fiction. The gravel road Izzy runs down to her home doesn’t exist. But Izzy is very much in my heart.