‘Kids Serve Too’: Camp recognized sacrifice of military children | SkyHiNews.com

‘Kids Serve Too’: Camp recognized sacrifice of military children

Katie Looby
Sky-Hi Daily News

While the men and women of the military serve our country, some may forget the emotional hardship their absence experienced by their sons and daughters.

Last week, a week-long camp called Operation Purple recognized those children with the slogan, “Kids Serve Too.” Ninety-five children from across the United States attended the camp.

Mathew Lifschultz, a Snow Mountain Ranch outdoors education program employee, worked with the children during the week.

They’re still figuring out how to express themselves, he said. “They don’t fully understand exactly what’s going on with their parents. There’s maybe a little anger, just a little misunderstanding, and they’re just trying to figure it all out … They’re all still young. Seven to 11 is still a very young age to fully understand, especially what war is.”

Bringing all the military children together benefited them, and many formed friendships, he added.

“It’s just a great atmosphere,” Lifschultz said. “(Snow Mountain) is an incredible place and there’s beautiful scenery everywhere. The volunteer staff really worked as hard as they could to make sure every kid felt welcome.”

As the camp ended on Friday, children ages 7 to 11, marched in a parade.

U.S. Air Force member John Hannigan brought his youngest son with him to pick up his daughter and two sons from camp.

“It’s really just a great experience for them,” he said. “I want to hear their stories.”

Operation Purple is a national program put on by the National Military Family Association. This year, military children will attend 100 weeks of camp held in 62 locations in 37 states and territories. All of the week-long, overnight camps are free, according to the Association Web site.

About 10,000 children will participate in the camps this summer, said Mark Birdseye, Snow Mountain Ranch program director.

“It’s for children that have had or currently have a parent deployed throughout the United States,” he said. “A lot of us get (caught) up in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there’s a lot of different things going on around the world that involve the American military.”

Birdseye’s nephew Victor Theodore Birdseye III is on his second tour in Baghdad.

“Our emphasis this week has been on how special these kids are. What they do to serve. And just help them have fun,” he said, adding that a military mental health consultant was also on site to assist. “These kids have a lot going on in their life ” we’re here to help them have fun.”

The YMCA co-hosted the event with some members of the military. The Sierra Club also sponsored the camp, Birdseye said.