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Read-aloud DVDs help families ease deployment stress

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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- For many children, listening to the slow, calm tone of a parent's voice reading a bedtime story is part of a nightly ritual.

Even when the parent is serving overseas, that can still be part of a child's nighttime routine, thanks to the "United Through Reading" program available to Soldiers deployed here.

In a building tucked in the center of the base, soldiers can sit in a quiet room decorated with calming colors and stuffed animals and record themselves reading to their children. Once the service member has customized his or her video, staff members finalize the disc and mail it to the family member at no cost to the defenders of freedom.

Recently deployed to Afghanistan, soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, have become the latest Soldiers to take advantage of the program.

U.S. Army Spc. Jason Harris has learned firsthand how the program helps bring his family together during their year of separation.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to sit in the room and read to my son," Harris, a cavalry scout with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment said. "I forget that I'm reading to a camera and instead just picture looking in my son's eyes and reading him a bedtime story."

"My wife says my son always asks to 'see Daddy,' Harris said. "It makes me happy to know that even while deployed, I can still read him and, to him. It's almost like I'm there with him."

Sgt. Victor Saucedo, a personnel sergeant, is another Arctic Wolves Soldier who has found benefit from the UTR program.

"The exciting part for me is when my son opens the book and starts watching the movies," Saucedo said. "My wife records his reaction and, for me, that's a morale booster. My son is always surprised and excited, whether he's following along on the right page or not. The point is, I get to be the one reading it to him and that means the world to me."

The program is such a success in the Saucedo family that the Dalzell, S.C., native has returned to record three different reading videos, each time picking a different book from the full bookshelves that line the walls.

The program has been bridging the gap between separated families since it was created in 1989. It was formed by a military spouse, mother and teacher, Betty J. Mohlenbrock. Since then, the program has touched the lives of thousands of lives of military families around the world.

For information on the United Through Reading program, service members and their families can go online to

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