This report originally published at defense.gov.
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 26, 2017 — The holidays can be hard, and this holds true for those deployed overseas and for their families back in the states.
But soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade are able to bridge the gap between home and station with the help of the Special Troops Battalion Unit Ministry Team.
Army Pfc. Hertaycious King, a religious affairs specialist with the brigade, started the Reading to Kids program as a way for the soldiers in her unit to stay connected with their families back home. It was instantly popular, with many soldiers coming more than once to create recordings.
Maintaining Family Communications
“We’ve had about 25 soldiers in a month,” King said. “It’s nice to see the effect it has on them and will have for their children.”
The soldiers pick out any children’s book from the chapel’s collection. King sets up a camera and records them reading as many books as they want. Some soldiers include messages at the end of their recordings for their families.
“One of the soldiers had to explain what he’s doing because his daughter has been asking for him,” King said. “He comes every week to get books and has done multiple videos.”
“My daughter doesn’t really grasp the reason why I’m not there and what I’m doing here,” said Army Master Sgt. Jorge Berriosruiz, the brigade’s chief ammunition noncommissioned officer. “She knows that I’m working, but as far as why I don’t come home from work, she doesn’t understand.”
It can be hard for young children to grasp why their parents can’t come home for so many months. By being able to see their parents reading to them, however much they want, soldiers can rest easier knowing they can still be there for their children.
“A Little Bit of Home’
“I try to read to them at least once a week,” Berriosruiz said. “This helps bring a little bit of me home to them, and at the same time, it is showing them how much I care for and love them.”
After they finish recording, King goes to work editing the videos, adding graphics and burning CDs to give to the soldiers. She also includes toys and candy for the parents to mail back to their children.
“Since we’re away, we feel we can’t do much. This is just another way of communicating,” King said. “A lot of people are missing their kids’ firsts, this is to let them know [their parents] love them and are thinking about them.”
“I think [this recording] will give them comfort and make them feel loved,” Berriosruiz said. “I would like to see more programs like this that help keep families engaged with one another and makes the distance between us seem nonexistent.”
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