New and devoted Dad, Joseph McAtee, deployed when his daughter was just two weeks old. He shares his experience with us today, not only from the perspective of an Army Sergeant, but from a father far from home. When asked about his family’s overall reaction to United Through Reading, Joseph said, “Recording a story onto DVD is a no brainer…it takes such a short time to make such a reusable resource.” He also said that by the fourth DVD he sent, his wife was able to put the DVDs on to play in different orders so the novelty didn’t wear off for their daughter. Isabella McAtee was 11 months old upon Joseph’s return and he was able to participate in her first birthday. He said that the DVDs were an obvious support during separation and his daughter was very happy to have him reading to her now that he has returned. Some Dr. Seuss books were used on DVD and she especially likes “The Eye Book” in person.
By Joseph McAtee
It was December, 2009. I had just landed in Kuwait en route to my second deployment in Iraq.
The preparation cycle was the same as my first deployment in 2007: a couple of shots, get the legal docs in order, field exercises aplenty. It’s old hat to those of us who had been through it before. This time was, though, markedly different for me for one major reason – my wife had given birth to our first child two months prior.
Unlike my first deployment, in which I was concerned about my safety and that of the other Soldiers in my unit, this time I spent the entirety of my concern on my wife and my daughter and how I would reintegrate into a family that was changing without me.
I would return to a wife who had gone from being somewhat overwhelmed by the early challenges of motherhood to a wizard who could change a diaper in 4 seconds with one hand while ironing with the other, all the while talking (coherently) into a phone smashed between her ear and her shoulder. It wasn’t that I was missing the early months of my child’s life and my wife’s adjustment to it; it’s that I wasn’t sure how I would be able to hop on a train that had left the station without me. So during those few days in Kuwait, I came across a United Through Reading room in a USO hut and tried to slow that train down.
Over the next 10 months, United Through Reading helped send five DVDs to my wife and daughter, and they would watch them often. It was the first service I had ever really taken advantage of during my time in the Army.
Now that I’ve returned to the civilian world, I’m on the other side of the coin, working for the National Resource Directory. A joint project between the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, the NRD has compiled nearly 14,000 resources (including United Through Reading) that connect Wounded Warriors, Service Members, Veterans, their families and caregivers with those who support them. It’s a portal for the military community that lists resources across the country that provide services covering everything from financial assistance to education benefits and even employment resources.
I was fortunate enough to serve in an era when organizations like United Through Reading are providing opportunities to Service Members to stay connected to their families during times of physical separation. Now, I’m fortunate to work on a project that serves those who protect us when that time of separation ends.
Right now, there’s a Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine or Airman who’s getting ready to head down range. On his or her way, they might stop in a United Through Reading room and record a video. They’ll know that there are organizations that are trying to help them, trying to lessen the hardships of deployment. When they put the book down and when the camera is turned off, there’s still an organization that can pick up where United Through Reading left off. The place to find that helping hand is the NRD.
United Through Reading is honored to be among the organizations listed in the National Resource Directory. We hope you will utilize it as well!
If you would like to share your United Through Reading story with us, please send an email to: ReadourBlog@unitedthroughreading.org or Facebookadmin@unitedthroughreading.org for details on how you can submit your story and photo. We’d love to hear from you.