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March 18, 2005

Teach... your children well...

UPDATE: MSG Keith adds:

Thanks for the comments. I'm very proud of both my daughters. My other daughter just finished her enlistment as an AF AWACS crewman. I have just one request. Please, please, PLEASE, don't send me any books. When the books from Aimee's book drive, my sister-in-law's book drive and one other in Virginia get here, I'll have about 1000 books on hand! At 30 books a week, it's going to take a long time to get rid of them. I need blank ideotapes (although I wouldn't mind if the castle kittens send videotapes that weren't blank.....) and bubble mailers. Thanks!

If you want to know MSG Keith's mailing address - drop me a line.

The acorn didn't fall too far from the tree... article is from the Crimson White, U of A, Tuscaloosa.


Program lets troops overseas "read" to their kids.

by Lori Creel
Staff Reporter

While stationed in Bosnia, Master Sgt. D. Keith Johnson of the Army Reserve decided he wanted to help kids of soldiers overseas after reading about a program that collected books for the children of naval officers.

Two years later and now stationed in Afghanistan, Johnson has brought his plan to life in the form of the "Read to Your Kids" program, an effort that collects books for soldiers to read while being videotaped. The video is then sent home along with books to the soldiers' children.

Johnson's daughter, UA Residential Communities coordinator Aimee Hourigan, has helped bring the program to the University. She held a book drive that ended last month with more than 300 books raised for children of American troops stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan.

As of March 4, the program had produced 186 videotapes overall for children of service members overseas, she said.

Hourigan said she first brought up the idea for the book drive with the resident assistants in Burke Hall and then with the Residence Hall Association because she thought it would be a good service project.

RHA members liked the idea and made it their community service project for the month in mid-January. Burke RAs managed to raise about $40 in donations from students to help send the books overseas, Hourigan said.

She said other students and staff on campus have also contributed to the program by donating books, as well as money, to ship the books to Afghanistan.

Several members of the softball team who live in Parham Hall bought books for the team to sign before they were donated. The Tutwiler Hall Council collected books by organizing a competition at First Wesleyan Academy, sponsoring a pizza party for the preschool class that brought in the most books.

The THC also worked with Tuscaloosa County High School's Key Club to collect books for the drive.

As a result, the council was recently awarded the South Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls' "Best of the Month Award" for its community service in the book drive.

Hourigan said the program has received a number of testimonials from family members of soldiers in Afghanistan who say their children get up in the morning and ask them to "play mommy" or "play daddy" on TV.

"It's helping soldiers from several different areas," Hourigan said. "There are different branches of the military working together at the base."

Hourigan said most of the soldiers at the base in Kabul are reservists whose families are used to having them at home, since the Army Reserve requires only one weekend of service per month and two weeks of service during the summer.

"The kids are used to having their parents around all the time," she said.

From her personal experience, Hourigan said she understood how helpful a program like this could be for children, since her father was in the National Guard when she was younger and couldn't always be home for holidays and birthdays.

"[A videotape of my dad reading a story] would have been a really cool thing to have as a kid," she said.

Though the book drive ended Feb. 14, students who still want to help can donate blank VHS videotapes or bubble packing envelopes to the "Read to Your Kids" program.

Donations can be given to Aimee Hourigan in Burke Hall.

For new visitors to the Castle - MSG Keith has assumed the duties of the Castle's roving war correspondent in Afghanistan.

Update: Fuzzybear Lioness' comment should be drug up into the light of day for the Googlebot.

MSG Johnson got this program off the ground through You can read about it on the the site. Click on "Where to Send." Then select "View Contacts by Last Name" in the pulldown menu on the left and look for MSG Johnson.

Also, look for 1LT Randy Curry's name to see a child's reaction to a video of her father reading a book. Very sweet picture.

John | Permalink | Comments (6) | Observations on things Military
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