• MOKULEIA, Hawaii - With the Waianae Mountains serving as a backdrop, military youth participate in a bevy of outdoor activities during "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for 233 youth at the YMCA's Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - With the Waianae Mountains serving as a backdrop, military youth participate in a bevy of outdoor activities during "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for 233 youth at the YMCA's Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Pfc. Eric Demere, 552nd Military Police Company tries unsuccessfully to fend of his "attackers" during a friendly contest of strength at "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for military youth at Camp Erdman in

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Pfc. Eric Demere, 552nd Military Police Company tries unsuccessfully to fend of his "attackers" during a friendly contest of strength at "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for military youth at Camp Erdman in

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Sgt. Gary Ynostrosa, 552nd Military Police Company, demonstrates the correct way to apply a pressure dressing to a wound as 7-year-old Shalonda Flowers soaks in the advice. Flowers, the daughter of Sgt. Ernest White, was one of 233 youth who participated in "Operation Purple," a week-long camp, held June 14-19, at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Sgt. Gary Ynostrosa, 552nd Military Police Company, demonstrates the correct way to apply a pressure dressing to a wound as 7-year-old Shalonda Flowers soaks in the advice. Flowers, the daughter of Sgt. Ernest White, was one of 233...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Military youth try their hand at the many outdoor activities offered during "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for 233 youth at the YMCA's Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Military youth try their hand at the many outdoor activities offered during "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for 233 youth at the YMCA's Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Andrew Logan-Bearden, 10, reacts after Sgt. Frank Moseley, 552nd Military Police Co., got the youngster out during a game of tag at "Operation Purple," a week-long camp at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Andrew Logan-Bearden, 10, reacts after Sgt. Frank Moseley, 552nd Military Police Co., got the youngster out during a game of tag at "Operation Purple," a week-long camp at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - DeMonte Bond, 11, perfects his jump shot on the basketball courts at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia, shortly before he and other campers were called in for lunch. Bond, the son of Sgt. Leon Bond, was among the 233 youth who spent a week at "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for military children of parents that have been or will be deployed.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - DeMonte Bond, 11, perfects his jump shot on the basketball courts at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia, shortly before he and other campers were called in for lunch. Bond, the son of Sgt. Leon Bond, was among the 233 youth who spent a week at...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Royce Hirai, 7, explores the insides of a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) video ray machine, which is used by U.S. Navy divers for shallow water surveys, photographic documentation and light salvage/recovery operations. Hirai, the son of Col. Peter Hirai, was among the 233 campers participating in "Operation Purple," a week-long camp at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia for military children of parents that have been or will be deployed.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Royce Hirai, 7, explores the insides of a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) video ray machine, which is used by U.S. Navy divers for shallow water surveys, photographic documentation and light salvage/recovery operations. Hirai, the son...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Spc. Dustin Stephenson, 552nd Military Police Company leads a group of campers around Camp Erdman in Mokuleia as part of the youth's "training regiment." The campers, ages 7 to 15, were part of "Operation Purple," held June 14-19, for military children dealing with war-related stress.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Spc. Dustin Stephenson, 552nd Military Police Company leads a group of campers around Camp Erdman in Mokuleia as part of the youth's "training regiment." The campers, ages 7 to 15, were part of "Operation Purple," held June 14-19...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Sgt. Frank Moseley, 552nd Military Police Company, applies the tag to Andrew Logan-Bearden, 10, in a game between "Operation Purple" campers and Soldiers/youth counselors. Logan-Bearden, the son of Lt. Col. Andy Bearden, was among the 233 campers participating in the week-long camp at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia for military children of parents that have been or will be deployed.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Sgt. Frank Moseley, 552nd Military Police Company, applies the tag to Andrew Logan-Bearden, 10, in a game between "Operation Purple" campers and Soldiers/youth counselors. Logan-Bearden, the son of Lt. Col. Andy Bearden, was among...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - "Operation Purple" wasn't all fun and games for Ryan Haukeli, 11, who found himself doing 10 pushups during a game of tag. The week-long camp, held June 14-19, accommodated 233 military children whose parents have been or will be deployed.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - "Operation Purple" wasn't all fun and games for Ryan Haukeli, 11, who found himself doing 10 pushups during a game of tag. The week-long camp, held June 14-19, accommodated 233 military children whose parents have been or will be...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Calvin Mann tries a Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) suit on for size during "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for military children of parents that have been or will be deployed. Mann, the son of U.S. Marines Warrant Officer Michael Mann, was among the 233 youth who spent a week out at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Calvin Mann tries a Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) suit on for size during "Operation Purple," a week-long camp for military children of parents that have been or will be deployed. Mann, the son of U.S. Marines Warrant Officer...

  • MOKULEIA, Hawaii - With U.S. Navy Diver 2nd Class Nathan Frost providing a bit of support, Frankie Luna, 7, tries on an MK-21 deep sea helmet for size, which, at 27 pounds, represents approximately half of the youngster's weight. Luna was among the 233 campers participating in "Operation Purple," a week-long camp at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia for military children of parents that have been or will be deployed.

    YMCA's Camp Erdman hosts Operation Purple activities

    MOKULEIA, Hawaii - With U.S. Navy Diver 2nd Class Nathan Frost providing a bit of support, Frankie Luna, 7, tries on an MK-21 deep sea helmet for size, which, at 27 pounds, represents approximately half of the youngster's weight. Luna was among the 233...

<b><i>Youth make new friends and find ways to connect with deployed parents</i></b>

MOKULEIA, Hawaii - Sitting on a Swiss army stretcher under a well-shaded ironwood tree, Shalonda Flowers, age 7, could sense the presence of her father, even though he is deployed.

He appeared to be everywhere she looked - in the nearby Waianae Mountains and in the faces of the Soldiers from the 552nd Military Police (MP) Company, who had just finished an instructional session for her and fellow campers.

"My dad drives one of those cars," said Flowers, pointing to an Army Humvee parked about 30-feet away.

Flowers, along with hundreds of other military children, are attending the weeklong Operation Purple camp at YMCA's Camp Erdman, here.

The camp, sponsored by the National Military Family Association, is held in various locations nationwide for military children with deployed parents.

For Flowers, this year's activities admittedly were helping her make a stronger connection with her deployed father, Sgt. Ernest White.

"(Camp) makes me feel like he's here with me," Flowers said. "It makes me happy."
Flowers was just one of a record number of youth who signed up for this year's camp, which ran June 14-19.

According to camp director, Roy Harriman, 233 children ages 7 to 15, from all service branches, registered for the free summer activities, doubling last year's participation.

More than 80 weeks of camp were offered this year to nearly 10,000 military children both overseas and in 37 states.

Coincidentally, 37 also applies to the number of staffers at Harriman's disposal this year, all of whom helped provide campers with a variety of activities, including swimming, archery and climbing the ever-popular Alpine tower.

And while no therapy or counseling sessions were conducted with the youth, mental heath consultants were always around to assist campers.

"Every kid here is experiencing some kind of deployment, whether mom or dad just came back, or they're about to go," Harriman said, "so these kids all have that in common. When they feel sad or they're missing home a lot, other kids know what that feels like, so they're not alone."

One of the ways campers kept their stress levels low was by maintaining their sense of humor.

For example, when Sgt. Nicholas Briggs, a dog handler with the 13th MP Detachment, asked a group of children what makes them complete their homework, Nathan Mitchell's hand quickly shot up in the air.

"Candy'" suggested the 11-year-old son of Capt. Shawn Mitchell.

Everyone, including Briggs and Mitchell, chuckled at the answer.

"Actually, it's discipline," the sergeant finally said.

With sponsorship from The Sierra Club and The Sierra Club Foundation, Operation Purple campers also learned the importance of being stewards of the aina, or land, by completing service projects during the week.

While strengthening their commitment to caring for the land, the campers forged lasting friendships with other military children, Harriman explained,

Ten-year-old Andrew Logan-Bearden was among those who wasted little time befriending a fellow camper.

"I met a kid named Gabe Funtes on the first day of camp," explained Logan-Bearden, the son of Lt. Col. Andy Bearden. "We've been best pals ever since."

As this year's camp drew to a close, 11-year-old DeMonte Bond admitted he would miss the activities and friendships forged at Camp Erdman. Still, he was absolutely giddy about the thought of returning home and seeing his father, Sgt. Leon Bond, once again.

"He's the best dad in the world," Bond said.

"Our motto is, 'Kids serve too,'" Harriman said. "They're going through stressful times in their lives, and they're making huge sacrifices by not having mom or dad here, and we want them to feel proud of what they do.

"This is a chance for them to come out, decompress and just be kids again."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16