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