AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
The United Through Reading program at the Mainside Chapel here, is offering service members the chance to reach their families with more than just a letter.
This process is simple.
Service members go in a designated room, sit down alone in front of a camera and record a message which will be viewed only by loved ones back home. A compact disc is made and sent out the same day.
“This is one of those resources that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Dennis N. Abeling, a religious program specialist for 1st Marine Logistics Group.
“It’s so much better to receive a video rather than a letter. You can do so much more,” Abeling added.
Service members can play the guitar, sing a song, perform a magic show or just express themselves in the 30 minutes given to them, Abeling explained.
Rather than just reading a letter or receiving a phone call, families can actually see their service member.
“I was doing it for my three-year-old and 18-mounth-old grand daughters,” said Navy Commander Kevin James Coolong, Anesthetist, Surgical Company, 2nd Supply Battalion Reinforced, 2nd MLG (Forward). “I wanted them to be able to see me and remember what I look like.”
Coolong, from Chesapeak, Va., has used this program 12 times so far and tries to make a new recording every two weeks.
“Each time I wanted to pick out a different theme or event they can remember,” Coolong said. “I would hold up items that would help them remember an event or something we used to do together and try to find a book I could read about that event as well.”
Receiving a video package is greatly appreciated by family members.
“My family wanted to show the videos to everyone who came over, my granddaughter would go up to the television and point at me,” Coolong says.
For Staff Sgt. Luis A. Silva, training chief for 1st MLG, the program has helped him keep in touch with his son.
“I used the program the last time I was out here to read a bedtime story to my son,” Silva said. “I plan on using it again this year.”
Writing letters or calling your family is nice, but it can become expensive, Silva said.
“It’s all conducted very well, a valuable tool for anyone who wants to keep in contact with loved ones,” Coolong said. “I hope people would take advantage of it.”
Those interested in sending a personal message home can schedule an appointment at the chaplains’ office.