United Through Reading

Grandkids in Cedar Hill get special gift

The war in Iraq ended, but for American soldiers and civilian support staff  still deploying to places like Kuwait and Afghanistan, leaving loved ones during the holidays is especially hard.

"I love my girls to death," said National Guard Lt.  Burt Page who leaves three daughters as he deploys to Kuwait. "Every time I think about them and have to leave, it gets to you. They are daddy's girls."

Sharon Foster volunteered for her fourth assignment in Afghanistan working for the Dallas-based Army and Air Force Exchange Service.  "We're there to help the soldiers," Foster said. "We serve and live right there with them, but it's a volunteer job."

Foster leaves behind her grandaughter Tristyn Hatley, 5, and her three-year-old grandson Corban Hatley. "Those two kids are my everything," Foster said.

Before their flights, Foster and Page and so many others stop in the USO Reading Room at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. 

Sitting in a comfy couch or chair in front of a camera, they read a book to the children they won't see for months. The special story time is recorded on a DVD and mailed home along the book.

"Since I'm not gonna get to be with you for Christmas, maybe this will help you," Foster said to the camera as she got ready to read and record 'Twas the Night Before Christmas for her grandchildren.

"This way they'll get to see me and I'll get to be part of Christmas with them, even though they I won't be there in person," said Foster.

Foster's mission was accomplished when a package with the DVD showed up a few days later at her grandchildren's home in Cedar Hill. The Hatleys sat on the couch, eyes glued to the TV for story time with 'Mimi.'

For a few minutes, it was as if she was in the room with them - a family reunited. Story time ended as any visit between grandmother and grandchildren does.

"I love you," said Foster as she turned off the camera.  The replies she didn't see included a good-bye wave from Corban and Tristyn's simple and sure "I love you, too, Mimi."

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