CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT -- Deployed service members staying connected with children and family can be quite hard, the United Through Reading Program provided by the USO at Camp Arifjan wants to change that.
"We provide a unique experience for service members by allowing them to come in read a book to their children and we mail it back home to them at no charge," said Chris Patterson USO Family Support Coordinator. "It allows them to directly connect back with their family members back home."
Soldiers can pick a book and read it while being filmed. Once finished the book and video are sent back home to children and family members. Funding for the program comes from private donors and has no cost to soldiers using it.
"I was surprised when I got here and it was very well organized," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Gilkison, paralegal NCOIC for the 371st Sustainment Brigade. "They always have a different rotation of books and even books I grew up with when I was a kid."
The videos can be recorded on a Micro SD card or a DVD which is also provided free of charge. Once finished USO volunteers assist you in addressing the envelope and helping you with your customs form. Gilkison said, "The USO volunteers really do care and walk you through the process."
"We get screen shots of children opening the package and videos of children watching while reading with their parents and it's so rewarding," said Patterson. "This provides a lasting impact; it's not just a onetime conversation on the phone or Facetime."
"First time I sent it my wife and kids were blown away and they wanted to hear it again and again," said Gilkison. "This is a huge connecting piece with my kids and they want me to send more books."
The USO provides this service on weekends after 6pm. Each soldier can read one book per child, up to three per day. The USO also gets special books in time for most holidays.