Curnow Family’s Worries Lessened Thanks to UTR

January 31, 2020

Merah and Chad Curnow went to high school together in Butte, Montana, but it was not until their ten-year high school reunion that Merah started falling for the Navy Sailor who was stationed in Richmond, VA at the time. Even with the long-distance, they made it work, and six months later Merah moved to Richmond, and a year later they were married. In fact, Merah says the long-distance helped their relationship later on. She added, “The first time Chad deployed for nine months aboard the USS Nimitz, I did not mind too much. I mean I missed him but we had been apart before, and he had the little stuffed elk I had given him so I knew we would be okay.” When Chad came back and got assigned to shore duty they decided to start a family. They now have two kids, son, Cutler, 4, and daughter, Saylor, 1.

Chad Curnow signing up for a United Through Reading recording slot aboard the USS Gridley.

As Navy life goes, Chad got orders for a 6-9 month tour with the USS Gridley (DDG 101), and a common worry for military families came to the surface: how would their children react to this separation? Cutler would not be able to see his best friend in person every day, and would Saylor even remember Chad when he came home? “She could go into stranger danger mode, as she had with many unfamiliar people, like with grandparents who live out of state. I am hoping these videos will help both kids recognize Chad when he gets off the ship at homecoming, since we don’t have the opportunity to FaceTime with him unless the ship is in port,” mom tearfully worried out loud.

The family’s worries were eased a little bit when they were reminded to use United Through Reading to help stay connected at their deployment brief. Merah shares, “I remembered United Through Reading from Chad’s prior tours, and I had thought that is such a cool program, and while I wasn’t happy he was leaving, I was excited that Chad could now use it to make recordings for our kids.”

4-year old Cutler and 1-year old Saylor reading “Where the Wild Things Are” with dad.

Chad made his first video-recording during the USS Gridley’s training mission. It was a recording of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak; when Saylor watched the video for the first time she playfully interacted with the video recording saying “da-da” and waving hello to the screen. After a few chuckles, the impact of the video started sinking in, and the family’s worries started to lessen.

Chad has been able to send home eight more personalized recordings. Merah shares, “While Cutler can’t quite read yet, he loves to flip the book’s pages and make sure he is on the same page as Chad. He also loves to see our family’s stuffed elk and hear about all the adventures it has onboard with dad.”

Merah also explains how the recordings help her, “When I need someone to entertain the kids so that I can do the dishes, I pop in a recording or if I am having a hard day myself, I put one in so I can feel closer to him. My favorites are the Dr. Seuss videos where he gets tongue-tied. They make me laugh, and I like to tease Chad about it when I get the chance.” 

After hearing all of this wonderful feedback from Merah, Chad signs up to make a United Through Reading video-recording every chance he has. On behalf of Chad, Merah states, “Dad really enjoys making them, it is so special for the Cutler and Saylor. He feels like it is something he can contribute to the family while he is gone. During this time he can be goofy for kids and take a small mental break from the mission.”