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USO Program Connects Overseas Soldiers With Their Children

By Melissa Newton, CBS 11 News
(Credit: AP Graphics Bank)

(Credit: AP Graphics Bank)

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IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – Army Pfc. Heath Ivey won’t get to be home for the holidays.

He left for Afghanistan in July. After two weeks of R&R, he returned to his deployment Tuesday for another seven months, leaving behind his wife and four-year-old son Bryson.

“This will be our first time we have not been together for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Ivey said. “It’s hard being away from your family.”

While Ivey can’t physically be with his family this Christmas, his son Bryson will have a special gift from him recorded with love.

The USO has a reading room at DFW International Airport stocked with hundreds of bedtime stories and children’s books. The USO is allowing for parents who are overseas to record a DVD of themselves reading a book to their child, or they can choose a book with a built-in voice recorder.

“It’s a happy place, we’re sending gifts of joy home to the families.” Clark said. “The most important thing, especially with the little ones, is that they hear daddy’s voice.”

The USO mails the DVDs or the books to the family.

Army Spc. Gunner Biddle is sending one to his two grandchildren in West Virginia.

“They ask me all the time if they can come over, and I say I’m not home,” Biddle said, “and he says where are you, and I say I’m in Iraq, and he says where’s Iraq, and I say it’s far, far away.”

The program is extremely popular, particularly around the holiday season. In the reading room, there are dozens of pictures and letters from military families hanging on the wall expressing gratitude for the special gift that brings families together, even when they’re thousands of miles apart.

“He likes for me to read to him at night,” Ivey said, “so this will be something my wife can put it in his DVD player and let him watch it.”