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United Through Reading Adds Another Element to Army Couple's Reunion in Afghanistan

Friday, February 15, 2013

By Joseph Andrew Lee 

Ashley Leigh Miller and Che Brown could be the quintessential military family.

They met while serving in the Army as human resource specialists and saw their love blossom into a small family. Between Che’s deployments to Afghanistan, the couple got married and had a boy named Isaiah.

Everything was going well for the new Army couple until they were hit with some unexpected news: They would both be deployed to Afghanistan – simultaneously.

“I was terrified to leave my newlywed husband and our 1-year-old son,” Miller wrote in an email. “We both knew it could happen but it was still a shock.”

Neither Miller nor Brown could be sure how they were going to communicate with each other or their newborn son, for that matter, who is staying with his grandmother in Missouri.

“I just hoped we had good Internet connections and would be able to Skype with each other weekly,” Miller wrote.

Unfortunately, there are few guarantees when deployed. Skype is rarely available because of limited bandwidth and operational tempo makes it difficult to connect to troops deployed elsewhere.

They would have one chance to meet in person, when Brown first arrived in theater – three months after Miller’s arrival. He was in-processing and she was at Bagram Air Field for a smallpox vaccine.

With only a few days to see one another, Miller concocted a plan to send a message of love home to their newborn son. She took her husband’s hand and led him into the USO Bagram East center, where she had spent time with her platoon three months earlier.

“I used the United Through Reading program when I first arrived to send a video home to my husband and Isaiah,” she wrote. “I thought it was a great idea to send a video home to them because it made us all three happy!”

Now that she had her husband there with her, she decided to do one more recording.

“When we had some off time I told him we should do one together for Isaiah and he agreed. We both loved it and thought it was a wonderful idea,” she added. “I hadn't seen my husband in three months and it was awesome to reconnect.”

The USO’s partnership with United Through Reading® gives deployed troops the opportunity to read their children a book and be with them in spirit. Through the program, troops can record themselves reading a book to their child, then send both the book and the DVD home for their family to enjoy.

“There was no better thing for us to do with those few hours we had together than read a book to send home to our son. If we had [United Through Reading] at our FOB I would send my son a book every month.”

* * *

Photo caption: Che and Ashley Leigh Brown display their readings. (USO photo) 

United Through Reading works with military commands deployed around the globe to record troops reading and send DVDs back to their families. Visit the organization's How to Participate page for more details. 

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