USS Bonhomme Richard Launches 'United Through Reading' 
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karen Blankenship, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs 
USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea - Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) launched the United Through Reading program while on deployment in the Western Pacific Aug. 27.

United Through Reading is a program uniting Sailors with their families on deployment by recording Sailors reading children's books and shipping that recording home.

"This program promotes both literacy and maintaining family connections," said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class James Decker. "It instills the value of reading in children because it allows you to create something with your family that can be re-experienced."

Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Jesus Rodriguez was the first to participate in the program. His sons, ages six and 16, live in San Francisco. Rodriguez chose a book called "The Big Bad Fish."

"My son always picks on me about being out at sea and asks me about swimming with sharks," said Rodriguez. "I wanted to show him it's not a bad thing being out here."

Rodriguez said that he participated in the program on a previous deployment.

"They liked it," said Rodriguez. "The youngest one liked it the most. He was glued to the TV."

Rodriguez said that he feels the program is important so that children know their parents are thinking of them while they are deployed.

"I have seen a child sit and listen every day and touch the screen of their daddy's face while listening," said Decker. "You could feel the sense of connection that was created. Making a video recording with your face and your voice is so much more fulfilling and impactful on a child than you would ever expect."

Service members who wish to create a video may call or email the Chaplain's office to set up at appointment. Sailors and Marines who do not have children may also make videos to send back to their families, local schools or churches.

"It starts to create a love for books in your child that they will hopefully carry into their adult lives," said Decker. "I would love for everyone to give it a chance."

Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed amphibious ready group and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations.
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