Operation Purple Camp Washington a hit

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As the CH-47 Chinook helicopter touched down in the midst of a whirlwind of dust and debris, the rear door opened and four Army Reservists wearing full military garb and holding rubber weapons stormed out to greet the children. 

"It got them going," said Gabe Laramie, Operation Purple Camp counselor from the 62nd Services Squadron, of the roaring introduction campers received. 

After the initial shock of the surprise landing faded, campers got the opportunity to talk to the Reservists, tour the helicopter and talk to the pilots. 

It was all a part of Operation Purple Camp Washington, a six-day camp for children at the Navy's Jim Creek Wilderness Recreation Area near Arlington, Wash. 

Seventy-four children of military members from each branch of the military in the state attended the camp. The camp was open to children entering seventh to 12th grade who had one parent deployed or orders to be deployed before March 2007. 

According to the National Military Family Association, which sponsors Operation Purple Camp, the goal of the free summer camps is to bring together children who are experiencing the stress that goes along with having a deployed parent. 

Con Fisher, the 62nd Services Squadron youth center director who also served as Operation Purple Camp's director, said the event was a success. 

"In the group circle at the end of camp, a number of kids said it was the best camp they had attended," Mr. Fisher said. 

The camp offered several activities for campers including hiking, canoeing, kayaking and mountain biking. Mr. Fisher said it was also the only Operation Purple Camp in the organization's 26 different state locations to offer white water rafting. 

In addition to all the outdoor and team building activities, the camp also provided chances for children to share their experiences with deployment and hear from special guest speakers. 

"I think the biggest thing for the kids was for them to be in a tent with other kids going through the same thing," Mr. Laramie said. "They helped each other a lot." 

Mr. Fisher said there were also two health care professionals on the camp grounds if any campers needed someone to talk to. 

Despite the success of this year's camp, Mr. Fisher said he's already thinking of ways to improve the camp for next year. He said those changes could include moving the camp to a location closer to McChord, adding a younger age group and possibly extending the length of the camp from six days to ten.