Sgt. Andrew Frausto carefully selected the perfect book for each of his three daughters, ages 5, 3 and 10 months old, prior to leaving for his third deployment.
He was one of more than 30 soldiers from 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to participate in the USO United Through Reading program Jan. 14.
The program allows soldiers to record a DVD reading aloud books they select for their children. Then, the books and DVD are mailed to the family by the USO.
“It’s like Christmas,” said Isabel Hubbard, Fort Hood USO programs manager.
Soldiers had the choice of more than 50 books, including Spanish language options and books for all reading levels.
For Frausto’s eldest daughter, he chose more difficult books, to challenge her to learn more words.
“For my youngest, we’ll just try to keep her seeing my face,” Frausto said. This deployment is harder for him than in the past, now that his daughters are older and understand he will be leaving.
“The hardest part for me is missing them. It’s another year they have to be by themselves,” he said.
Frausto said he was excited to participate in the reading program, now that he has children who are “more into school. They can sit down and enjoy a book.”
His wife will implement this into their daily routine, he said.
Capt. Christopher Mitchell read to his 20-month-old daughter. His family also has a baby on the way, to be born in April.
“We’re starting to read to her,” he said of his daughter. “It’s a good opportunity to start reading lower level books and build her vocabulary.”
He chose 2- to 3-year age books — “simple stories with easy words.”
The DVD will be perfect for when he isn’t available to Skype.
“She can see me and read along,” he said.
The most difficult part of deploying is missing out on seeing the changes she makes each week, not that she’s really starting to grow, he said.
Staff Sgt. Jose Padillo also read for his three sons, ranging in age from 3 to 9. It’s a program he’s participated in for each of his deployments.
“They love it. It reminds them I love them,” he said. “I chose something I think they’ll like or that reminds me of them.”
For his 7-year-old son, he read a book titled “Happy Birthday,” since he will miss his birthday during this deployment.
The USO will setup reading stations for deploying units upon request, or soldiers are welcome to stop by the center and record books anytime they wish.
“They can visit any USO downrange and keep sending books to stay connected,” Hubbard said.