Army North Soldiers meet, greet children of deployed parents during Operation Purple
August 2, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Kids serve, too. That's the message at Operation Purple, a summer camp for children whose parents are deployed or are about to deploy.
At the Blue Streak Stables in Seguin, one of three camps hosting Operation Purple in Texas, U.S. Army North Soldiers from Fort Sam Houston took a day July 29 to talk about the military and to lead 55 young girls in leadership challenges and relay races.
"Being a parent who has deployed, it was good to show the girls something different and take their minds off of some of the things they're dealing with," said Lt. Col. Mike Harvey, chief, air operations cell, Army North. "There is nothing but good that can come from a camp like this."
Harvey, whose daughter, Mattie, 11, was also at the camp, said it is good for the girls to meet others in their situation.
"They all face the same emotional challenges; making bonds with other girls helps them," Harvey said. "The older girls can help the younger girls with some coping mechanisms that they've been taught."
Harvey, along with his fellow volunteers from Army North, spoke with the campers about some issues they face as military family members.
"How many times have you moved'" Harvey asked the room. "It's hard making new friends sometimes, isn't it'"
At the horsemanship camp, July 25-30, children contributed pictures of their parents to the wall of honor, created a tree-ring history of their lives, and learned to care for, brush, groom and saddle horses, and rode the horses in an outdoor arena.
For the military day, the girls took a break from the horses and asked questions about the military as they climbed through an old Army jeep, a humvee and an Army North Emergency Response Vehicle. They also used their teamwork skills as they completed team-focused obstacle courses and relay races.
Heidi, a sixth-grader whose father is a helicopter pilot in the Army, said the obstacle course was her favorite military-themed activity because it helped to show the importance of teamwork and leadership.
"I liked the leadership skills thing," Heidi said. "We had to think real hard about getting to the other side without help from the adults."
Reba Martinez, who owns the Blue Streak Stables with her husband, Larry, said she wants children to learn to accomplish goals and gain confidence.
"It's not learning to tie a safety-release knot; it's learning to try something new - to develop steps to accomplish a goal so then they bring that back with them into their lives," Martinez said. "When we get these girls on the horses, it means a lot because they've conquered their fear."
Talking with military children about the Marines, and leading obstacle courses and relays, was a chance to support military families, said Marine Maj. Mike Tsung, Joint Task Force - North liaison officer, Army North.
"It was a great opportunity to help the kids to have fun today while their parents are deployed overseas," said Tsung.