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Smithsburg woman's book gives a child's-eye view of military service

December 21, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - Blakeley Jackson's first book is a reality.

But the 28-year-old Smithsburg woman said "I'll Miss You Daddy" was in her head for many, many years.

"I come from a military family ... I grew up saying goodbye," Jackson said.

"I'll Miss You Daddy" is written from a child's perspective and for the level of understanding a child would have when a father must be away from home because of military service.

In the 20-page book, little Aaron tells how his mother helped him draw a calendar with each day that daddy will be gone. Every night, he uses a red crayon to mark off the days.

And he describes how his mom showed him an atlas with maps of where Aaron's dad is stationed.

Aaron draws a picture each week and sends it along with his mother's letter to his dad.

One morning, Aaron was awakened so he could talk to his father on the telephone and tell him he loved him.

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The book concludes with Aaron and his mom going to the airport to meet Aaron's dad and giving him a big hug.

At home, Aaron's dad tells him how proud he is of his son for being so brave when he was away.

"I didn't understand when I was little and my daddy went away," Jackson said.

When Jackson was born, her father was stationed at the West Virginia Air Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va., and the family lived in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

She remembers being in the sixth grade and learning that a plane from her father's base had gone down somewhere in the world.

"My mom called the family services group in Martinsburg and they got word to us that it wasn't dad's plane," Jackson said. "We all rallied at my grandparents' house until we knew."

Jackson remembers to this day what seat she was sitting in at school when she heard about that crash. She knows firsthand how children are affected.

"I wrote the book in about an hour," Jackson said.

What delayed publication were the illustrations that were contracted through her publisher, Authorhouse.

Although not on shelves yet in bookstores, "I'll Miss You Daddy" may be obtained online through Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Authorhouse.

"I'm flying to Flagstaff, Ariz., soon to get an agent," Jackson said.

She has written two other books, including one in which a mother is in the military and away from home.

The third is for middle school and high school youth who are dealing with an absent parent in the military.

"I'm getting great feedback," Jackson said. "A friend has a daughter in the second grade and she waited until her dad came home so he could read it to her."

Next year, Jackson will be speaking at the University of North Carolina for a professor who teaches children's literature.

Jackson's father is retired from the military and her mom is retired from Shepherd University. They have moved to South Carolina.

Jackson has a daughter, Annaston Cree, who is 8, and a son, Hayden Souders, who is 22 months old.

She lives in Smithsburg with her fianc and is marketing director/patient care coordinator at Ryan Physical Therapy.

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