Veteran instills confidence in kids
Nelson Brown, who served 12 years in the Air Force before getting out in 1993, just published the children’s book “I Can.”
Brown said he wrote the book to “jump start a child’s confidence and build a positive self-image.” Easy to read because it constantly repeats the same words, “I can,” which is followed by the main character accomplishing a task.
Proud of his military service, Brown’s goal is to have “this little book in every young child’s hand who is the son or daughter of an active military person.”
Stripes Korea recently sat down with Brown to discuss his book. Here’s what he had to say.
Q. Nelson, Congrats on your book being published. What made you decide to write a children’s book? What was the inspiration motivation behind it?
A. Simply put, I truly love people, all people. And I’ve always had a softer spot for children. I’m a father myself of four children. I have two boys and two girls. The oldest girl is Justine, and she’s in the Navy. She’s stationed at Hickam. The youngest is 13. I was motivated to write “I Can” when she was born. I wanted her to have a book that her daddy wrote, and to help her begin to believe in herself as she grew. I remember thinking, “I can write a children’s story.” I wrote this story in 2002, but didn’t get usable illustrations until 2015. At the time, I just used illustrations off of the internet. I couldn’t publish them but I could make a book or two for my daughter.
As soon as I found an affordable illustrator, by the way who is also a veteran, I knew it was time to work on getting published because this book is special.
Q. Why should parents get this book for their children?
A. Any parent who has a child between the ages of 1 and 5 should have this book. Parents should get “I Can” because it’s a great book about the child who is reading it. The child will see themselves with every turn of the page. The book consistently repeats the affirmation “I Can” on each page. For example, “I can walk, and I can read, and I can learn, etc. The illustrations go hand in hand with what the child is reading, so a child will be able to relate to the picture and then say the words on the page. As the child repeats the “I Can” affirmation, I believe it will instill in them the possibility of success, and remain a permanent part of who they become. As they accomplish the task they are reading, it can help establish confidence, and positive self-esteem without the child knowing what those words mean. In addition, the book is written in English and Spanish. How cool would it be for a toddler to learn to speak both languages at the same time? The book has wonderful illustrations that represent all children. It’s really a good book, and it will make a child want to move and have fun. It’s also available as an e-book so it could be downloaded onto a cell phone or I-pad for convenience.
Q. You talk about the importance of confidence and a positive self-image. Is that something you struggled with when you were younger?
A. It’s an interesting question. When we get older, we often reflect on our upbringing. We also remember scenes and words that were said to us that were part of that upbringing. I did struggle with confidence and having a positive self-image because of some of the negative words said to me, but I didn’t know what those things meant as a child. My parents did the best they could, but they had a very dysfunctional marriage. There was some physical and emotional abuse. I was a witness to much of it, and occasionally the target of some pretty nasty words that really hurt. When someone says, “You won’t ever amount to anything,” or “you’re stupid,” a child can begin to believe those words. When you believe the negativity, it can affect the outcome of your life if you allow it to. Words have halted and ruined potential. That was me, but I always knew there was something better in me. Thank goodness for never giving up. I’m a believer in knowing as long as I have breath in me, I still have a chance at success.
Q. You served 12 years in the Air Force and believe strongly in the military. Tell us your thoughts about serving your country and why the military community is still close to your heart?
A. The Air Force literally saved my life! If I didn’t have the option of serving my country, I believe I would have made some bad choices as a teenaged civilian. I had an uncle who was in the Air Force. While on leave, he spoke to me about joining. At the time, it was the best decision I ever made. Let’s face it, there are many different ways to live life. Some go to college right out of high school. Some learn a trade or just get a job. Some turn to crime. An then there is the group of people who join the military. The military can give a person the opportunity to mature and understand the importance of being a part of something bigger than themselves. That’s a big transition from being a selfish teenager to serving and protecting an entire country. The military team, unlike a sports team, allows people from different cultures, beliefs, races, and skill levels, to contribute to keeping our nations safe. I think it’s the most important job to have.
Q. As you’ve gotten older, you’ve earned your degree and written a book. Do you consider yourself a late bloomer?
A. My 13 year old jokingly calls me “old man.” She also calls me a nerd, which I take as a compliment. Not only am I a late bloomer, I’m almost an antique. But like fine wine, I believe I just get better with time. I’m a person who always believed there was more to me. I just had ups and downs along the way that prevented me from reaching my potential. I’m still climbing. I’m actually happy to have accomplishments later in life. It keeps me young. Instead of looking forward to retirement, I’m re-fired up! I’m just getting started!
Q. What advice do you have for folks getting out of the military?
A. In my opinion, the military is like this huge family. They really do take care of you while you’re in. The military feeds, clothes, provides shelter, and has an excellent healthcare system that is free. If they don’t have to get out, I’d suggest staying in, and taking advantage of improving yourself. Get as much education as you can while still active. However, if they are set on getting out, I’d tell them to first have a plan. Anyone who does not plan to succeed, plans to fail. When it’s time to get out, hit the ground running. Getting out of the military is not a ticket to sit back and relax. Being a civilian is not the same as being active duty. In order to obtain success as a civilian, a person has to be able to knock on doors until they get the answer they want. No one is going to give them anything they don’t deserve or didn’t ask for. And if someone tells you “No,” and they will, don’t let it stop you. For me, “NO” is an acronym for “Next Opportunity.” If you take it that way, you’ll keep trying. It’s your life. Take control of your own destiny.
When I separated, President Clinton was downsizing the military and bonuses were paid in certain fields to separate. If I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed in.
Q. April is Month of the Military Child. What’s your take on military children?
A. I believe the military child has many advantages. For one, they have the opportunity to live in parts of the world the average American child does not. They can experience and explore different cultures, people, food, and other aspects of a different country which can help them really become well rounded. Of course, the child has to be made aware of their advantages, and not take them for granted. It’s easy to take our advantages for granted. I imagine the constant moving around could have a negative impact on a child, but if they remember that growth and character come along with challenges, it can really help them see the good in moving around. They can have friends all over the world. How many people can say that?
Q.Are more books on the horizon?
A. I definitely have more books coming. There are at least four more children’s stories, and one book about taking control of our health. It’s part of me to help people. The books I write help people take a closer look at themselves to only become better, no matter what age they are.