Program allows GIs in Bosnia to read to children a world away
Stars and Stripes June 10, 2003
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Army Capt. Michael Diaz has read to his daughter Alyssa since she was a baby.
Although that tradition became challenging when he deployed to Bosnia, it did not end.
On Saturday afternoon, Diaz of the 249th Finance Detachment picked out a children’s book, sat in a chair in front of a camera — American flag by his side — and started reading a story about pets.
About 15 minutes later, he had the tape, the book and an envelope all ready to be mailed — free of charge.
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Stribling, broadcast noncommissioned officer in charge of the 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment has put together more than a dozen videos since Master Sgt. Keith Johnson, the detachment’s noncommissioned officer in charge, came up with the idea.
Although his kids are grown up, Johnson could see the morale-building potential for fellow soldiers with younger children after reading a story in Stars and Stripes about a similar program on a military ship.
“It’s kind of a way of keeping in touch with home,” Johnson said.
He wrote to a book publisher and got 50 children’s books donated. The publisher requested to remain unnamed. The 35th Infantry Division provided the videotapes.
Johnson could see that he could run out of books, so his wife started talking to Borders about possible donations. The company has vowed to start a program allowing customers to purchase children’s books for troops, Johnson said.
Stribling sets up to videotape every Saturday afternoon and on some weekday evenings.
He doesn’t mind doing extra work.
“I like it,” said the father of a 12- and 17-year-old. “I got kids myself. I like to send tapes home, and I like to get tapes.”
Johnson and Stribling push-pin the soldiers’ hometown on the map after every reading.
One was pinned on Florida for Capt. Deborrah McCoy’s 6-year-old daughter, Saysha, who will soon hear her mom read a story about a little bear visiting a dentist for the first time. McCoy, of 343rd MPAD, hopes it will help Saysha during her first upcoming dentist visit. She also recorded a message for her 14-year-old son Brian.
The taping process is simple, Stribling said. He runs a cable from his digital camera to the VCR, recording directly onto the tape.
Some troops really get into reading, changing the tone of voice, Johnson said. One mother got so emotional that she had to take a short break.
Diaz has recently gotten a tape of his daughter’s birthday party and first dance recital.
“I’m sending one back,” he said. “[Reading on tape] I feel like I’m supporting them, showing them I’m thinking of them every day,”
While Diaz is still far from his 4-year-old daughter, reading to her made a difference.
“It really gave me a lift today,” he said.