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Mission: Family: Elmo on the way to military audiences

Mar. 29, 2012 - 02:33PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 29, 2012 - 02:33PM  |  
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Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

Elmo is embarking on another road trip, visiting children at more than 70 military bases over the next eight months.

The tour starts at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., on April 7.

Elmo is part of the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, a long-running free tour based on Sesame Street's initiative for military children. The show includes a 30-minute performance and offers cool giveaways and outreach materials.

In this year's tour, Elmo and his buddies help Katie, a Muppet military child, talk about her fears and excitement in dealing with change and making new friends as she relocates to a new place with her family.

"Elmo's new friend Katie helps military kids just like her learn how to make new friends wherever they are," said USO president Sloan Gibson, in a statement announcing the tour.

Katie joined the Sesame Street/USO tour about a year ago.

The tour itself began in July 2008 to help families deal with the challenges of deployment and homecomings. Since then, the troupe has visited more than 248,000 service members and family members.

It has performed 433 shows on 131 military bases in 33 states and 11 countries.

Muppets can get helpful messages to military children in a way no one else can. And the shows are free. To see when the show is visiting your base,">click here.

New Gold Star chapter

April 5 marks the 67th anniversary of Gold Star Wives of America, which began in the kitchen of Marie Speer, a World War II widow who co-founded the organization. And on April 5, an inaugural celebration will be held for the organization's newest chapter the Arlington, Va., chapter.

The chapter is not limited to those geographically located in Arlington, said Vivianne Wersel, an Army widow who will be installed as chapter president.

Most members of the group have spouses buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but spouses can be buried anywhere in the country, so it's also a "virtual chapter," with a Facebook page.

By mid-March, the chapter had 81 members, even before it had been officially announced.

The chapter's goals are designed to appeal to post-9/11 widows and widowers, including physical activities, charity work and a support network for surviving spouses and their children.

The nonprofit group also has run a number of races to benefit wounded warriors and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

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