ABOARD USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (NNS) -- USS George Washington (GW) (CVN 73) filmed the 1,000 United Through Reading (UTR) tape June 28 for the 2004 deployment. This number met the goal the ship's command and religious ministries department set before departing Norfolk nearly six months ago, Jan. 20.
"Last deployment, we filmed just over 900 readings, making us the ship that sent home the most tapes," said Religious Programs Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Lagioconda Phillips, UTR coordinator. "This deployment, we made it our goal to reach 1,000 tapings, and we've just passed it. We still have time before we get home to make more tapes, and I already have several Sailors signed up for later this week. I'm planning on making one or two myself."
The Family Literacy Foundation started the UTR program. Promoting reading with children and parent interaction, it allows Sailors to read books on tape for their children to watch while they're deployed. For the 1,000th taping, the coordinator for the division with the most tapings was given the choice of who would get to read.
"I was really surprised when I got the call saying I was going to be number 1,000," said grateful reader Yeoman 2nd Class (AW/SW) Natesha Gay. "This is now my second reading for my daughter, Kailah. She is five and really loves reading. The first time I sent home a tape, she loved it. It helped her feel like I was home instead of out to sea, and that's important to me because since she was born, I've never spent time away from her."
After Gay finished reading, tape 1001 was made of Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class (SW) Michelle McHenry reading "Detective Donut and the Wild Goose Chase" for her two children.
Chaplain (Lt.) Joseph Coffee reminded everyone that Sailors participating in UTR aren't limited to their own children. Some Sailors make tapes for nieces, nephews and children of friends. Sailors who aren't personally close to any children can read for a number of different schools that participate in the UTR program.
"Our students love when people read to them," said Christine Holmes, South Eastern Cooperative Educational Programming member.
Both Sailors and children have something to gain from GW's participating in the UTR program. For Sailors, knowing that they're making a difference to a child can be a huge morale booster in the final days of deployment. Children get a reminder that their family members love them, even when they're deployed, plus an extra education message.
"I read so my children won't feel like I left them when I'm gone," said McHenry. "My son was mad at me for leaving last deployment, and I'm hoping this will help him not be mad at me for leaving again.
"Being [reader number] 1001 shows me that I'm not the only parent who misses his or her children," she added. "It's great that my representative would choose me to read again, but I see it more as another chance to connect with my children."
George Washington is currently participating in Summer Pulse '04 while forward deployed to the Arabian Gulf. Summer Pulse 2004 is the simultaneous deployment of seven aircraft carrier strike groups, demonstrating the ability of the Navy to provide credible combat power across the globe, in five theaters with other U.S., allied and coalition military forces. Summer Pulse is the Navy's first deployment under its new Fleet Response Plan.
For more information about Summer Pulse '04, visit the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm.
For related news, visit the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn73.