Through a colorfully illustrated 40-page book, the real-life midnight black Caisson horse that lives at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., has been coming to the homes of military families who have lost a loved one, bringing comfort to the grieving children. And now, with the assistance of a $25,000 grant from The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, "Klinger: A Story of Honor and Hope," will reach the hearts of more families through a second printing and transform the live horse into a stuffed animal.
The award-winning children's book is published by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a "leading organization providing emotional support to the children of Armed Forces members who have died while serving our country, regardless of the circumstances of the death," and authored by Betsy Beard, editor of TAPS Quarterly Magazine. Beard, the proud mother of fallen soldier Spc. Bradley Beard, wrote the book to ease the pain of young TAPS survivors. But as she researched and began writing, Beard became "overwhelmed with the enormity of what the soldiers of the Caisson Platoon do for those of us who have lost a loved one in service to America. So, in addition to comforting children of the fallen and honoring those who served and died, I wanted to share the tremendous respect paid by the military to their fallen heroes," Beard said.
"Klinger: A Story of Honor and Hope," is a story of a young horse who dreams of fame on the race track. However, after having to leave his family and start a new life, he soon finds that fame is not necessary and discovers fulfillment in honoring fallen heroes and bringing comfort to their families.
"This is a book that mirrors the growth of a young child growing to maturity in a world with pain and difficulty," Beard said. "We follow Klinger's life as he must leave home and start a new life without his parents, something that our TAPS kids have been forced to do. (The book) provides the comfort of knowing that others share their pain and care about their loss."
And though TAPS target audience for the book is 6- to 9-year-olds, the book is resonating with people of all ages. "We have 4-year-olds who have renamed all their stuffed animals Klinger, 9-year-olds who consider Klinger their friend or child, and adults who cry when they read the book," Beard said.
Visit www.taps.org  for further information on the organization and "Klinger: A Story of Honor and Hope."