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Deployed Guardsman’s Stories for Kids Become Children’s Book | Montana News

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By TYLER MANNING, independent record

Helena, Mont. (Associated Press) — Helena Valley resident Fred Terry never aspired to become a published author, but ended up becoming a writer after writing a children’s book as a means of communicating with his children while being published with the U.S. Army National Guard.

His children’s book, White Paw: Beyond the Gate, tells a slightly fictional version of what happened on the Terry family’s farm while Fred spent nine months sprawled out at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is told from the perspective of the puppy who lived on the farm after being born by one of the family’s dogs, Prancer the Pup.

The book is somewhat whimsical, as told to Fred by his children through their daily notes while it was being published. It features many talking animals such as Mr. Magic, the old Billy Goat who lives on the farm.

Fred said he kept a journal while posting on various assignments with the Guard. While in Cuba, he decided he wanted to do something more to create a “record of my time away from my family,” as he put it.

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“I didn’t start with plans to write a book. I always keep a little diary to commemorate that time away from my children,” Fred told The Independent Record. “It was really an idea for (his wife) Trish. On the 27th of each month, the day I left publishing, we were using Facetime and reading a few chapters. It was a good way to connect with the kids through storytelling.”

According to Fred, reading the book chapters each month was a good way to count down the couple’s five children: Kiara, Gobi, Elisha, Amria, and Anaya.

“It kind of became a party night for all of them,” Fred said. “They would all gather around the TV or something and eat popcorn while I read to them.”

Trish said the girls specifically were always laughing and laughing because they were in the story.

According to Fred, the book and reading the story not only helped his children cope with his absence, but also helped him deal with his homesickness as it spread.

“It really helped keep me in touch with what was happening on the farm,” Fred said.

Fred is beginning to realize that what started as a pet project has grown into a full story.

“I came to this realization towards the end that I had some kind of real book in my hand,” Fred said. “So I talked to a woman in the church who had published books before and she showed me all the different options.”

Fred eventually settled on Kindle direct publishing the book via Amazon. “White Paw” can be downloaded for the Kindle, or a hard copy can be purchased from Amazon.

However, Fred is not the only Montana veteran who has contributed to the book. Another member of Fred’s Butte’s unit, Jon Poe of Billings, illustrated the book for him. Fred said this serendipitous partnership came about after he saw some of Boo’s doodles on notebooks. Fred approached him and asked if he was interested, and Poe was too.

Poe initially drew line drawings for the book, but was personally unhappy with the turnout. Then he decided to return all the illustrations in the style of watercolor. According to Fred, most of the work the two did together took place while quarantined at various facilities, due to COVID-19, for about 50 days.

According to Fred, the book became a source of camaraderie in loneliness. While there was some annoyance about that, there was also a lot of collective input as the project progressed.

The product of their work is a 13-chapter, approximately 150-page book by unique authorship, illustrated in full color by Poe.

However, this end product of having a published paperback book is somewhat unnecessary for Fred. The goal was not to make money, despite selling several copies at this point, but instead to make new connections with his children as it spreads.

Reading on Facetime was a great way to count down the months, and Fred saved the last chapter for him to read when he got home, he said.

This was Fred’s third deployment in his 33-and-a-half years with the Guard. He currently works as a signal officer in the National Guard, ensuring that communications are working properly. He was previously deployed to Afghanistan as a military police officer.

According to Fred, the family for a while came up with the idea of ​​Fred writing another book. This will again be a family affair with the children providing the input and Trish, who teaches the children at home, helping as the editor.

“I never really thought about writing,” said Fred, “but while writing I thought I should take it more seriously.” “You kind of woke up being a writer in me. A potential new hobby. It also made me read books differently. I have a more critical perspective on them now I see a lot of tricks and little things that authors do.”

For the family, this book served its purpose as it represented a time in the family’s life when Fred was gone. He said there was really nothing to celebrate his time in Afghanistan in the same way. There certainly isn’t anything that has allowed Fred and Trish to incorporate the lessons they want their children to learn as they get older.

Bryancer the pup has moved on. He found his own farm to live on after a while, but many of the embodied animals are still found on the terry farm north of Helena.

“The one thing I would like people to take away from this is that for families who are stuck at home, posting is difficult,” Fred said. “Do what you can for them, even if it’s a small thing.”

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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