Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Operation Purple Camp-KIDS SERVE TOO!!

On August 5th, I had the opportunity to visit the Operation Purple camp in Greig, NY which is affiliated with the National Military Families Association. (NMFA)

NMFA is the only nonprofit organization that represents families of all ranks and services, and prepares spouses, children, and parents to better deal with the unique challenges of military life. According to NMFA, The Operation Purple summer camp is to impart the message to these young heroes that KIDS SERVE TOO. The program helps military children experience carefree fun while establishing relationships with other children who have the shared experience of having a parent deployed.

I must say that these children were unbelievable. Seeing them interact with one another was touching. Many told me while attending other camps they have felt out of place. Their friends at other camps would tell them "oh it's ok...your parents will be fine" but these friends (even though they were only trying to help) could not really understand what they were going through.

However, at Operation Purple camp all of the children go through the same thing whether it is dealing with deployment, a wounded servicemember in their family, or just military life. These children have the opportunity to share with one another their happy times as well as their hard times without their parents and the each one of them can relate. 

I got to see the Wall Of Honor that the campers make. This is a wall to display pictures of their family member who is a servicemember and write a memory they have with them or something about that person.

At camp, they also have a list of "Top 10 things that make me sad, scared, and lonely". This is a time for the campers to display how they are feeling while dealing with their servicemember's lifestyle. Reading these posters showed me the great struggle the children of military families have dealing with military lifestyle. Some examples are:

-Parents getting injured
-losing friends, families, and pets
-scary noise
-both parents leaving
-having nightmares

These exercises allow the children to express their feelings and help heal from their own wounds. I was touched reading these lists and embraced my time with the children even more.

The campers really enjoyed my visit. They were trying on my crown and calling me Miss America. Hey, I'll take it!! :) Not only were they having a great time at camp, but I was able to make their day and was so glad I also had the opportunity to have lunch with them.

At lunch I spoke to one little girl (who begged me to sit with her specifically--she's in the pic above poking her head above the crown). As we were talking she told me both of her parents are deployed. I asked her how she felt about that. She sat tall, and strong and stated, "I'm proud of my parents they keep me free". WOW!! What an answer and what an angel this little girl was.

These children are so mature because they have to be. They have to take on great responsibility and may even become the 'caretaker' in the home to siblings or a spouse of a deployed servicemember. The hearts of these children are wounded, but they find joy in life and simply take nothing for granted. That is the kind of appreciation that should be exemplified in all of our youth. I am honored to have met these little angels and may God continue to bless them.

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