Armin Brott is low key about his military background. The author of "The Expectant Father" and several more books about fatherhood said, "These days I’m up to my ears in this stuff," referring to his books, syndicated column, "Ask Mr. Dad" and "Positive Parenting" radio show.

"There are still certain things I do thirty years later that I can attribute to my Marine days," Brott said.

Perhaps one of those things is his latest book, "The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads" (Abbeville Press, 2009.) However, he said current events, not his own past, provided the impetus.

"I started probably four years ago or so getting e-mails from soldiers, in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the most part, but there were also some who couldn’t tell me where they were," he said.

These men had one thing in common: All were fathers separated from their families.

"They were saying … ‘I really am struggling with the idea of how to stay involved with my kids,’ " Brott said. " ‘What am I supposed to do to stay somehow involved and be a presence in these people’s lives so that I know when I come back, they’ll know me?’ "

Brott said he recognized a need to inform those fathers.

"There’s a lot of stuff out there for deployment, mostly for the wife who is behind," he said, "but very little looking at what the dad can actually do before he leaves and, while he’s gone, to make sure those relationships stay strong, and what he can do when he comes back to get back in the swing of things."

The book covers deployment in three segments — before, during and after — with suggestions for maintaining communication, and understanding family emotions about deployment and reunion.

Encouraging fathers to be connected to their families is familiar ground for Brott, but this time there was a twist.

"All (my) other books are about how to be involved with your family, how to be an active involved dad when you can actually have your kids sitting in your lap or sitting across from you," he said.

"This one is when you are thousands of miles apart. How to maintain the family relationship, how to stay a part of their lives, how to have them stay a part of your life."

For the book, he interviewed soldiers, spouses and commanders.

"I had a couple of people helping me do research," he said, "a professor at West Point and an Army spouse, both helping me look through research and add their own perspective," he said.

Brott’s suggestions for deployed dads range from recording books for toddlers to questions for encouraging communication with teenagers.

"If you had a regular routine where you helped your son or daughter with homework, try to keep that up," he said. "Tell them what is going on with you too, so that they have a sense that you are a real person still."

The parent at home also has a role to play, Brott said.

"It is incumbent on the stay-at home parent … to really encourage the communication, to run interference and to say ‘Here’s what’s going on.’ "

While Brott acknowledges the difficulty of this task, he emphasizes the necessity of keeping families connected.

"What happens in so many cases is that the challenges seem so huge that people just throw up their hands and say ‘There’s no sense in even trying.’ That’s what I don’t want to happen."

No dad wants that.

Read more about military dads on the Spouse Calls blog. To dads at home or far away: Happy Father’s Day.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three, who lives and writes in Germany. Spouse Calls appears weekly in Stars and Stripes. Contact Terri at and see the Spouse Calls blog here.

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