PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The United Through Reading program kicked off aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) to help Sailors and Marines deployed with Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit keep in touch with their families.
"I'm ecstatic that the Navy is providing [access to] such a great program," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Christina Martinez. "My favorite part about the United Through Reading Program is that it's a no-cost program and we can even send home the books that we read so that they can follow along."
United Through Reading is dedicated to uniting U.S. military families who face physical separation by facilitating the bond experience of reading aloud together.
According to Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Jay Rhone, Boxer's United Through Reading program coordinator, United Through Reading gives every person aboard an opportunity to read a children's book to any child that is special to them.
"As of right now we have had 26 Sailors and Marines physically come down and make a video," said Rhone. "That number is only going to go up drastically, which is exactly what we want."
Rhone added that the connection goes beyond simply sharing a bedtime story with a beloved child. "They have 30 minutes to laugh, sing, dance or even do funny faces."
Last year United Through Reading served more than 100,000 beneficiaries at nearly 200 recording locations around the world. These numbers include 66 U.S. Navy ships, submarines, aviation and Special Forces commands, as well as 26 Marine Corps commands and libraries.
"I chose to do this for my child because I know this will be one of the only ways she'll be able to see me while I'm out to sea," said Martinez. "It gives me hope that this time apart won't be too difficult on her."
United Through Reading is sponsored by the Family Literacy Foundation and sends DVDs of deployed service members reading books back to their children.
More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines from Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) are transiting the Pacific Ocean en route to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet area of operations.
For more information about United Through Reading program, visit www.unitedthroughreading.org.
For more news from USS Boxer (LHD 4), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.