Reading program links children with deployed family members
April 14, 2011
Being away from loved ones is something every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsmen understands when he or she takes the oath of enlistment. Only on deployment do servicemembers truly come to grips with the mental strength it takes to endure time away from family.
These emotions are familiar to Army Sgt. Nazario Castro, attached to the 124th Military Police Company, Puerto Rico National Guard. Castro has been away from his wife and two sons for nearly six months.
Aside from using Skype to talk to his family each night, Castro was elated to learn about Joint Task Force Guantanamo's United Through Reading program.
United Through Reading records a deployed parent, aunt, uncle or sibling reading a storybook to a child back home. The disc and the book are then sent to the child so he or she can read along with their family member. This allows the child to make powerful connections and helps deployed personnel parent from afar. It also reassures the child mom or dad is safe and thinking of home while deployed.
"I had no idea that this was available. I heard some friends talking about it, and I thought what better way to surprise my boys," Castro expressed.
A native of Puerto Rico, Castro said he's a family man and wanted to find a book written in Spanish. Instead, he resorted to translating a Disney's Peter Pan book from English to Spanish.
"My sons are learning both English and Spanish," said Castro. "So this will be good for them to hear an English- written story translated for them. I can't describe what their faces will look like seeing me, but I know they will be excited."
Castro attended a Yellow Ribbon pre-deployment brief with his wife prior to deployment and said the program really helped prepare his family.
"My wife took charge and shared this Sesame Street pre-deployment book with our sons, which showed them that Elmo's dad is also deployed and what to expect," he said.
Not realizing his older son would take the book so literally, Castro was surprised at his son's most recent request.
"He said, 'Daddy, I want to meet Elmo's father,'" laughed Castro. "So I had to tell him that Elmo's father is on leave, because he thinks that Elmo's father is my boss."
Although Castro's son will not be meeting Elmo's father, he will see his dad on video making voices and sound effects to the tune of a Disney classic- "Peter Pan."
"We adults always try to explain life, but children just live everything with great imagination and passion," said Castro. "Trying to describe or explain how my sons will feel with this storytelling is impossible."
Religious Programs Specialist 3rd Class Jeffery Lauber, attached to JTF Guantanamo, said he finds joy in being a facilitator for the program by setting up and recording the readings.
Since Lauber arrived in October, 50 videos have been recorded and delivered to families across the country. Lauber explained the recorded tape is made into a DVD and formatted to play in a computer or DVD player. Then the member mails the book and DVD to family members.
"It gives the family back home a chance to see their Trooper as often as they want," Lauber shared. "I have heard from people who use this program, how their kids or grandkids watch the video on a nightly basis."
If you are interested in uniting with your family through reading contact Lauber at ext. 2305 to set up an appointment.