ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) surpassed the Navywide record for the number of videotapes mailed out for the Uniting Through Reading program with 1,069 tapes during their current deployment, surpassing the old Navywide record of 1,035.
The Uniting Through Reading program, which ended aboard in mid-March, is a way for deployed service members to read to children, usually a son, daughter, niece or nephew back home. The idea is to pick a book the child already has or one that can be sent to them so they can read along. Doing this over the course of the deployment will help children become more prepared for the reunion with their relative when they come home.
During the past five months, the program has been keeping the Sailors and Marines aboard Truman in touch with their families back home. Though this way of communication wasn't as fast as e-mail or phone calls, it provided a better visual form of interaction for family members, especially children.
"I really liked how it allowed me to interact with my family," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (SW/AW) Mitchell Perry. "I would pick a book my son already has back home and whenever he wants to see daddy read, he just runs to the [TV] so he can read with me."
To be able to achieve such a surprising outcome took the combined effort of many departments aboard, specifically supply department and the command religious ministry department (CRMD).
"The support was phenomenal," said command coordinator Lt. Cmdr. Steven Porter. "We weren't sure how we were going to get tapes for the crew, but the [executive officer] talked to supply and made it happen, so supply expedited the equipment and tapes. It was a real team effort."
"CRMD helped us out a lot. They let us use the library for sign-ups and stepped in whenever we needed help," said program coordinator Chief Aviation Ordanceman(AW/SW) Bill Easterling.
Volunteers were the one of the most essential elements of the program. Forty-five Sailors and Marines, ranging from E-3s to O-4s, gladly volunteered their time to set up and work the camera for their shipmates, so they could communicate with family and friends back home.
"All of the volunteers contributed generously to this program," said Easterling.
"The most rewarding part about being a volunteer for me was watching people's emotions," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class (SW) Lorenzo Miller. "It made me miss my family more."
Some crew members took their involvement to a different level. Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Julie Arp told a friend back home about the program and what a good idea it was.
"I told one of my girlfriends back home, who owns a bookstore, about the program and she in turn wrote to one of the book companies she orders from. That's how we got some of our books," said Arp.
The promotion for the program was not restricted to the ship. A representative at the Fleet and Family Support Center made a big difference in the program. She promoted the program to Truman's loved ones.
"Our representative on shore would remind the families to send pictures and videos of their child engaged in the videos they received," said Porter. "She also helped provide positive feedback."
Although the program is over in its current form, Sailors might be able to participate in a similar developing program.
"The Truman Uniting Through Reading program [coordinators] are now supporting an outreach program for special needs children," said Easterling. "Sailors will be able to read to the children, and the tapes will be delivered after we return to Norfolk."
The Uniting Through Reading program earned quite a reputation with the crew and families back home.
"I highly encourage other ships to take part in this program. It helped the morale a lot and many people said it made them feel closer to their family," said Porter. "Hearing back from them made them feel more connected."
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.