Deployments and separation continue to be a reality for military families. Each year, more than 100,000 military parents are deployed leaving nearly 250,000 children at home. With a conservative 6-month separation, these children have 180 nights without their parent at home for bedtime stories.

That’s 40 million missed stories each year by military children.

With United Through Reading’s mission to connect military families through the read-aloud experience, we can deliver many of these stories each year. But there are still millions of stories left to send home.

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The Full Story

Boblett Family

The Bobletts—MA1 Rex Boblett and Veronica—have four adorable children; Ryan, Annaleigh, Louanna, and Emmalynn. All they have known their whole lives is being in a military family. Their dad, Petty Officer Boblett, has been in the Navy for more than 15 years, and during that time the Bobletts have moved 8 times and they’ve used UTR since the beginning.

There are a lot of collateral programs you can be involved in, but UTR is one of the most worthwhile. As a father of three and the husband of a reading specialist, UTR afforded me the perfect opportunity to be involved in two things that I care deeply about: bringing Navy families closer to their Sailors on deployment and promoting childhood literacy.

— LT Rob Patrick, USN

Overview Video

Learn more about United Through Reading.

During his deployment to Afghanistan in 2014 that video meant so much to me. It made that hard days not so hard. And even still today, it means so much to our son.

— Katherine Scull, Marine spouse

Deployed, Yet Devoted

Husband and father Eric Applen has served in the Air Force for over 15 years, with six years of active duty and 10 years in the Minneapolis Air National Guard. With two children remaining a part of their lives while overseas was always a challenge, especially during their younger years. Although he may have missed some important moments, Eric was still able to take part in bedtime stories. With UTR, Eric read to his children, reconnecting with them each night.

“Our first experience with UTR was in 2010 when Eric was deployed to Afghanistan,” wife and mother Emily Applen said. “I believe Eric saw at the community center in Kandahar that the program was available. I cried when my daughter and I watched it for the first time. It was amazing to see his face and hear his voice read to her.”

Reading favorites such as Where the Wild Things Are and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Eric was able to still be a part of the family over 7,000 miles away. By sharing such a fundamental, yet simple experience with his children, Eric experienced the sense of connectedness UTR creates between service members and their families.

“As soon as I made a video and sent it, I was always anxiously waiting for the response from back home,” Eric Applen said. “The feeling I had was that I felt very connected with my children, forgetting that I was thousands and thousands of miles away. It almost felt like I went home for the evening, read a story and then left.”

— 1st Sgt. Eric Applen, MN Air National Guard, and wife Emily

An unexpected benefit of UTR was just how much the simple act of having daddy read aloud to them on demand would also help to improve their language skills, reading skills and social interactions.

— Ingrid Herrera-Yee, Military Spouse, Clinical & Research Psychologist, and the AFI 2014 National Guard Spouse of the Year

My child absolutely loved watching the UTR recordings in my absence. She asked to watch "mama reading" frequently. She had watched the recordings so many times she was able to recite most of the books back to me! Making the videos I felt like I was talking with her as if were back at home.

— USMC Spouse and UTR Mom

When A Family Finds UTR, Things Change.

When Nicole’s husband Sam, a U.S. Army Captain, was deployed for nine months to Afghanistan in 2014, the family first experienced the hardships and challenges that many military families face during deployment.

With Sam away, the family lost the sense of connection they had when he was at home. Though they would try to keep in touch with Skype or FaceTime, it proved challenging to coordinate schedules with the different time zones. But when Sam discovered UTR through the USO in Bagram, things changed.

Every other week, Sam recorded two UTR videos to send back home to his family. Nicole remembers when her daughter saw her dad through the first UTR video. Despite being very young at the time, hearing her father’s voice and brought a huge smile to her face. The first book Sam read to her, Dragons Love Tacos, is still her favorite book to this day.

“My daughter said her first word, ‘dada,’ while she was watching one of his videos. I really believe it gave him a way to talk to her. He’d tell her little things before and after the stories, and let her connect with him.”

— Nicole and Sam, a U.S. Army Family