Operation Purple Camp a success

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Rafting, horseback riding and archery were just a few of the exciting events that awaited nearly 130 children of deployed military members this summer during Operation Purple Camp Washington. 

The camp was held at Camp Zanika Lache in Wenatchee, Wash., and was open to children entering seventh to 12th grades who had a parent deployed or a parent with orders to be deployed soon. 

According to the National Military Family Association, which sponsors Operation Purple Camp, the goal of the camp was to bring children together who are experiencing the stress that goes along with having deployed parents. In an effort to help ease their stress, children had a wide range of outdoor activities available to them. 

In addition to the outdoor activities, the children also got a show-and-tell visit from an Army explosive ordinance disposal team from Yakima, Wash. The team brought different types of disarmed improvised explosive devices, weapons, bomb disposal suits and the robot it uses to handle some explosives. The children also got a hands-on experience during the visit, as the team provided them with an opportunity to drive the robot. 

Though camp organizers didn't host a large forum for campers to talk about their parents deploying, there were opportunities after daily activities for them to talk about it if they preferred, said camp co-director Con Fisher, 62nd Services Squadron. 

Most of those opportunities came near the end of the week after the
campers had a chance to get to know each other, said Gabe Laramie, 62nd SVS, a second-year counselor who had a group of 16 and 17-year-olds. 

"The older kids were a bit more guarded, but they started to open up near the end," Mr. Laramie said. "It brought the group closer together when they all found they had some of the same beliefs." 

According to the NMFA, another of the camp's goals is to give kids the coping skills and support networks of peers to better handle life's ups and downs. 

Campers also had support from two health care professionals who stayed at the camp all week. 

"They were there if anyone had any problems or issues that they needed to talk about," Mr. Fisher said. 

Mr. Laramie said he experienced that firsthand. 

"By the end, the campers were walking around together," he said. "They all seemed like they had a good time and had something to remember."