United Through Reading Connects Sailors with Their Loved Ones

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 9, 2015) – USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN 71) Sailors and Marines submitted more than 2,000 videos to their loved ones through the United Through Reading (UTR) program and earned themselves recognition as the leading command for submissions in the Atlantic Fleet.

The previous record for the Atlantic fleet was 1,610, and the all-time record for any carrier is at 2,371 which was recorded during a 15-month deployment.

“There were 96 volunteers and 800-plus hours went into this program,” said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class William Murdy, the program coordinator.
UTR is a program that allows deployed Sailors to read to their children via video recordings. Program volunteers provide some age-appropriate books, space and equipment and then convert parents’ recordings to CD or DVD so children can view the readings at home.

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“The most influential time in a child’s development is when the child is young,” said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class William Murdy. “Being able to show themselves on a TV and reading a book to their kids, allows the children to see and recognize that person—so that when they come back from deployment, the mother or father is not a stranger.”

Although the program was originally for Sailors to read to children, the program has evolved into a way for Sailors to connect with anyone, be it a child, spouse, or friend, through recorded video. This has allowed Sailors to get creative when sending these video recordings.

Some people will even write their own stories,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Caitlin Brunetta, a program volunteer. “I had a Sailor who would write a story and then read it with his own illustrations of it on notebook paper. Another would read out the letters he wrote to his wife.”

Brunetta opted to give her child an opportunity to interact with her while watching the recording.

“I bought a 10-pack of books, and I read the whole series to my daughter. I told her with each book to read with me,” she said. “When I was done reading all the books, I sent the package with all the books I recorded home to her.”

Volunteers were careful to provide maximum privacy since some Sailors cry during the videos, said Murdy.

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“The recordings are private, so once the volunteer starts the recording: the Sailor can speak however they want, in whatever language they speak and however is most comfortable to them,” said Brunetta. “Then we just come in to end the recording, put it on a disc, and we give it to them in an envelope to mail. They can send it home on their own.”

Sailors and Marines are encouraged to try the program, “There is no limit on how many times a Sailor can come back to make another video,” said Brunetta. “So if a Sailor was away from their child or family for a long time, this is a way for that Sailor to cope. Some people came every other day to make a video for their child.”

Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 90) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).

Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to its new homeport in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift.

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph S. Yu, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

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