Photo Information

Cpl. Martha V. Estevane reads a children’s book for her daughter as Petty Officer 1st Class Juan R. Bejarano checks the camera on board USS Bonhomme Richard here Sept. 28. Estevane will send a DVD to her child to view as part of United Through Reading, a program intended to keep deployed parents connected with their children through video taped reading sessions.

Photo by Cpl. Jeffrey Belovarac

Deployed parents read to children back home

30 Sep 2009 | Cpl. Jeffrey Belovarac

Ten military parents aboard USS Bonhomme Richard here began reading children’s books in front of a video camera Sept. 28, preparing story time on a DVD for their young ones.

Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked the amphibious assault ship Sept. 24 and sailed westward, saying goodbye to spouses and children for months to come.

“My daughter is having a hard time making it without me. I hope this will help her out a little bit,” said Lance Cpl. Michael R. Spencer, 21, from Tyler, Texas, about his 13-month-old daughter, Jaedyn.

In its 20th year, United Through Reading provides parents the resources to create videos of book readings for children. The books are mailed with the DVD recordings so children can read along.

Marines and sailors made more than 400 recordings during the 11th MEU’s previous deployment in 2007 and 2008.

Religious programs specialist and project coordinator Petty Officer 1st Class Juan R. Bejarano said he’s trying to surpass that number.

Even though the parent is not physically home, this lets the children “see their face and hear their voice,” said Bejarano, 29, from Tucson, Ariz.

Sgt. Brandon R. Morrison, who recorded readings on his last deployment, signed up early to make a recording for his 18-month old daughter, Jade.

“My daughter’s going to see me and say ‘Daddy, daddy! That’s daddy!’ It’s pretty sweet,” said Morrison, 26, from Los Angeles. “My family will get to look at it time and time again. It’s ten times better than a phone call.”


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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit