Tribute to Military Families 2023

May 12, 2023

Our annual Tribute to Military Families is a time to celebrate those that sacrifice for our country every day and are the core of what we do for military members, spouses, and children. They are why we launched Operation Storytime to reach #TheNextMillion military family members through shared storytime.   

Military leaders and families shared how important family connections are during time apart, and how United Through Reading facilitates the strong bond with our program. 

CSM John Raines, 13th Command Sergeant Major of the Army National Guard, shared how he discovered a love of reading later in life. It wasn’t until trying to keep busy during a long deployment that his love of reading was sparked, and now thousands of books later, he and his wife Karen made sure their own children had access to daily story time, and their granddaughters can be read to by “PapPap” through the United Through Reading App anytime he’s away.

Alicia Norton, a National Guard spouse, reminded us that National Guard members are away more than one weekend a month. With training, temporary duty (TDY), and deployments, her husband CW3 William Norton has spent more time away from home some years. Recently, their family spent 6 months apart and used our App to ease the time away. 

“The United Through Reading App was used A LOT during those 6 months. There were countless nights where I would find our son in bed listening to Daddy read while I was tending to our daughter. For Victoria, who was three at the time, it would help her get through those “I REALLY MISS DADDY” moments.”

AN Derrick Steele recently returned from an 8 month deployment aboard the USS George HW Bush and used United Through Reading to stay in touch with his 3 year old son.

”My son being just 3 years old loves pictures in books and loves to read them. So I used United Through Reading and read a couple of books, filmed what I read, and mailed the books and film home to my family! Being deployed on a ship, sending and receiving mail, it takes awhile for the mail to reach its destination; so awhile I was looking through my emails and there was a message saying they received the books and film and they had watched it and they loved it! Right then my heart felt happy again. Through deployment I had a lot of emotions, and the feeling of I can’t wait to get back to my family. But to fill that void United Through Reading made missing them a little easier while being miles away from them.”

We are grateful to the Norton and Steele family for sharing their experiences with United Through Reading with us this year. Thank you to all of our Operation Storytime partners for making this event and our work possible. 

Learn more about Operation Storytime and pledge to be #TheNextMillion today.