By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Deployments and remote duty assignments can be stressful enough without the worry of staying connected to your family while you are gone.
The United Through Reading Military Program is helping children smile and laugh while also providing deployed service members peace of mind. The program helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having deployed parents read children’s books aloud for their child to watch at home on DVD.
“The United Through Reading program helps to bridge the gap between a deployed service member and their children,” said Master Sgt. Walt McClung, 21st Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center NCO.
“When you are deployed or have a remote assignment, you are going to be removed from your family for an extended period of time,” said McClung. “It’s a great tool to help service members and their kids to stay connected and lessen the anxiety when Mom or Dad comes home.”
This program is offered free of charge and is hosted by the USO center at Fort Carson. It is available to all deploying service members that want to participate.
“The service member can record themselves onto a DVD. We have a selection of children’s books they can choose from or if they have a special one that they read to their kids, they can bring that one in as well,” McClung said.
McClung not only helps to connect deploying Airmen with the program, but also has personally used the program during his previous deployment to Iraq.
“It was very important to me, so that my little girl would have a DVD of me reading her stories,” he said. “No one is guaranteed the next day, and while it may be an unpleasant thought, being able to leave those things (DVD) behind for your kids is a comforting thought.”
With much of the focus and emphasis on the deploying Airman, sometimes the spouse at home is forgotten.
“The ones (spouses) that are left behind are in charge; they are taking care of everything. When I was deployed my wife was able to put the DVD on and take a nap for about 45 minutes,” Walt said about his wife Crystal.
“It allows the spouse left behind an opportunity to rest while the children get to listen to Mom or Dad’s voice,” he said. “That way they don’t have to feel solely responsible for building that connection between the kids and the deployed member.”
The United Through Reading program is helping service members maintain those important relationships during deployments which also helps children cope with that awkward period when a parent returns home.
“They might think ‘I know you; you are the guy that has been reading me books on the television every night for the last six months before I go to bed,’” McClung said.
To participate in the United Through Reading Military Program, call Danielle Butzin at (906) 458-0107 or contact the Peterson Airman and Family Readiness Center at 556-6141.