By Daniel Drummond
With three younger brothers at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division Spc. Lazarus McKinney has to keep track of multiple birthdays – even when he is deployed halfway around the world in Poland.
Fortunately for McKinney, the USO recently visited the Tactical Area Assembly (TAA) site that he is currently deployed to in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The USO also brought along its Bob Hope Reading Legacy Program, which offers service members the opportunity to record themselves reading a book, and then have that recording and a copy of the book sent home to a son, daughter, sibling or any other child in their life.
Suddenly, McKinney had the perfect birthday present for his 7-year-old brother, whose birthday is in April.
“I hope to be back by then, but if not, I just want him to be able to watch that recording from me,” McKinney said.
Sitting on an Army-issued cot, McKinney read “Happy Birthday to You!” by Dr. Seuss to a laptop camera. McKinney flipped through the pages, read all the passages and showed the images of each page, just as he would do if he were reading to his brother at home. Once he was done reading, the recording was sent via email to his mom, who would then show it to his younger brother.
According to McKinney, reading to his brother is nothing new. Despite a considerable age difference, the two play games and read together quite often.
“Whenever he’s having trouble go to sleep, I will read to him,” McKinney said.
Having been out in the field on deployment to Poland for just over a month, McKinney said that he is trying to stay “in a good place of mind.” When he has the chance to connect with his family back home, they want to make sure he knows he’s supported and doing well.
The opportunity to read to his younger brother will help keep everyone connected, McKinney explained, and the experience helped keep him in a positive frame of mind.
“Hopefully it will make his day [too],” McKinney said with a chuckle.
In the meantime, the USO will continue its mission of keeping service members connected to family, home and country – one birthday bedtime story at a time.
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