If anybody doubts the importance of what Elmo does, think of 4-year-old Kamiaya Sadler.
Kamiaya was in a group of military pre-school children from child development centers in the Washington, D.C., area when Elmo and his Muppet buddies Rosita and Grover bounced into a room at the Reserve Officers Association building to perform a preview of their upcoming USO tour for military families.
A few minutes into the performance, as he talked about his dad leaving, Elmo asked, "Do you ever feel sad when you miss your mommy or daddy?" Without skipping a beat, Kamiaya called out to Elmo, "I miss my daddy!"
It's what the Sesame Street tour is all about - providing the connections and resources to military families and helping them understand that they are not alone.
The Muppets' Sesame Street Experience for Military Families tour kicks off July 8 at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and proceeds to 42 other installations around the country, ending at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minn., on Nov. 2.
It's the first time in the nearly 40-year history of Sesame Street that the Muppets have done a live outreach program, said Gary Knell, president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop in a June 26 ceremony announcing the tour.
The show will be free. It will include a 20-minute performance by the Muppets, with giveaways and information about resources for military families with young children. That includes the materials from "Talk, Listen, Connect," a military outreach program launched by Sesame Workshop in 2006. In videos produced by Sesame Workshop, Elmo and his dad and mom work through issues related to deployments. Rosita's dad comes back injured, and Rosita learns to talk to her father about her feelings. In all the videos, military children and their parents talk about their own experiences in dealing with these issues.
"Who besides Elmo, Rosita, Grover and their friends is better able to speak to three- to five-year-olds? I can't imagine a more credible, reliable or empathetic spokesperson," said Leslye Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. She said the Defense Department is grateful for the partnership of those involved in the project.
"Talk, Listen, Connect is especially exciting because it goes after our smallest service members," said Edward Powell, president and chief executive officer of USO headquarters. "We know the price they pay when mom or dad goes away. We know the anxiety. We also know the anxiety when they come home."
- Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 8
- Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz., July 10
- Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Calif., July 13
- Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Calif., July 14-15
- Naval Station San Diego, San Diego, Calif., July 18
- Naval Base Ventura County, Ventura, Calif., July 19
- Beale Air Force Base, Yuba City, Calif., July 22
- McChord Air Force Base, Tacoma, Wash., July 24-25
- Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor ,Wash., July 26
- Naval Base Kitsap, Oak Harbor, Wash., July 27
- Mountain Home Air Force Base, Mountain Home, Idaho, July 30
- Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, Utah, Aug. 1
- Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug. 3-4
- Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, Aug. 7-8
- Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, Aug 10-11
- Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas, Aug. 13-14
- Fort Sill, Lawton, Okla., Aug 16-17
- Fort Riley, Junction City, Kansas, Aug 20-21
- Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue, Neb., Aug 23-24
- Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Aug 27-28
- Fort Campbell, Oak Grove, Ky., Aug 30-31
- Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss.,Sept 3-4
- Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., Sept 6-7
- Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., Sept 9
- Hurlburt Field & Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Sept. 10-11
- MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., Sept. 13
- Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Sept. 17-18
- Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 19-20
- Charleston Air Force Base, SC Sept. 25
- Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 27
- Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, N.C., Oct. 1-2
- Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Oct. 4
- Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., Oct. 5
- Fort Eustis, Va., Oct 7
- Fort Stewart, Ga., Oct. 10-11
- Fort Belvoir, Va., Oct. 14-15
- Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Oct. 16-17
- Fort Dix, N.J., Oct. 18
- Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Oct 23-24
- Pittsburgh Joint Air Reserve Station, Pa., Oct. 26
- Fort Drum, N.Y., Oct 28-29
- Camp Ripley, Little Falls, Minn., Nov 2
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