Friday, October 30, 2009


Staff Sgt. Freddie Figueroa, a Soldier in Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fills out an envelope to mail his daughter a book and a recording of him reading at the USO at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 17. The United Through Reading program allows Soldiers to send their children books and DVDs of them reading it free of charge.

Bed time stories from half a world away

October 27th, 2009

One of the greatest times of any child’s day is bedtime. This is when they get to go to their bookshelf, grab their favorite (and sometimes longest) book, and spend quality time with mom and/or dad. But when a parent is deployed, this time is gone. Check out the guest blog post from Sgt. Ben Hutto, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs and learn how one program allows children and parents to get that special time back.

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Mercedes Figueroa has nighttime ritual every night before she goes to sleep at her home in Phenix City, Ala. Every night before she goes to sleep her father, Staff Sgt. Freddie Figueroa, reads her at least three books.

“She loves to be read to,” said Staff Sgt. Figueroa. “It’s something that is really special for both of us.”

Figueroa’s recent deployment to Iraq with the rest of his fellow Soldiers in Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment will delay story time for the next year, but a program offered by the USO at Camp Buehring will allow the father and daughter to stay connected.

The United Through Reading program allows deployed service members to record themselves reading a book to their children and then mails the recording and the book back home to the serviceman’s family for free.

“This is a great program and the books really become family heirlooms,” said Malcolm Marson, a duty manager at Camp Buehring’s USO. “I try to relax the Soldiers and tell them to imagine that they are in their living rooms with their family sitting there with them. You see some really hard boiled guys come here with scowls on their faces and leave with the biggest grins.”

The program focuses on giving Soldier’s families a visual interactive form of communication said Marson.

“It’s much more in-depth than a phone call because a child can see their parent and actually hold the same book their parent was holding,” he said. “They can replay that DVD as many times as they want to. It just doesn’t end when the phone hangs up.”

Soldiers from every battalion in the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team have taken advantage of the program. As their time at Camp Buehring begins to shorten and their movement to Iraq is set to begin, Soldiers are trying to get into multiple sessions to tide their children over until they can come home and read to them personally.

“I have five children and I’m trying to make sure they all have a book,” said Spc. Jeremy Bills, a Soldier in Company D, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “I’m reading everything from Dr. Seuss to Harry Potter to make sure all my kids have a book. It means I’ll be up here at least five nights to get it in, but it is worth it.”

Both Figueroa’s and Bills’ wives are reading to their children in their husband’s absence.

“Hopefully, this can give her a break for a night,” said Bills. “I’m hoping to surprise her with these books coming in the mail. Having a large family with me away from home is tough, but anything I can do to help her is a big deal for me.”

Figueroa thinks by sending these books home, he is letting his wife and daughter know he is still thinking about them.

“Things like this help you take care of home,” he said. “If home is taken care of, you can focus on your mission. I know my wife and daughter know that I love them, but it never hurts to do something to let them know that you are still thinking about them.”...

The children also serve. Go read the rest of this great B*N*S*N story here.

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