JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- More than 200 military children were able to experience the trepidation of deployment and the bliss of coming home at a Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event hosted by the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Aug. 2.
The event aims to help kids understand a sliver of what their parent goes through during the preparation, deployment and reintegration stages associated with each mission.
"It's important we educate our military children on how their parents prepare for, and some things they may have to go through during a deployment," said Diana Burr, JBLM community readiness technician, and one of the event organizers. "Ultimately, I hope we were able to increase the families' sense of awareness and feelings of safety and security and decrease the amount of stress associated when their parent has to deploy."
Children were assigned to individual chalks, or groups, before going through a mock deployment line which included taking their deployment medications (Skittles) and receiving T-shirts, passports, backpacks, water bottles and hats for their mission.
Afterward, family and friends said their goodbyes, complete with hugs, kisses and high-fives before the young service members boarded the bus to the secret location, appropriately named Camp Runamuck.
Five-year-old, Megan Peterman, had a huge smile on her face as she prepared to board the buses. Her mom, Gabrielle Peterman, wife of Senior Airman William Peterman, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said she was just as excited as her daughter was for the event.
"She's very excited and we're glad she went," Peterman said. "We wanted (Megan) to go today because her daddy is deploying again in a few months. We wanted her to be as prepared as she could be and learn about what her daddy does when he's gone. We're so happy that they have these types of events for kids."
Once arriving at Camp Runamuck, the children prepared for their mission by getting their faces painted with camouflage, and then making their way through a series of physical obstacles. Afterward, they had the opportunity to learn about and try on some of the equipment Airmen and Soldiers use downrange before having a turn on Lightweight Tactical All-Terrain Vehicles and getting to explore a C-17.
The smiles on the children's faces were matched by the beaming faces of every Soldier, Airmen and civilian helping out at the event.
Volunteer and Airman 1st Class Alysha Danielson, 627th Communications Squadron, said she volunteered at the event to get a better idea of what military kids experience during deployment and was glad the kids were able to learn and have fun at the same time.
"I'm fairly new in the Air Force and I wanted to learn what families go through since I don't have a family of my own," Danielson said. "A lot of the kids said that their parents had deployed already and they were really happy that they got to understand a little bit of what their parents go through (while) having fun."
After a tiring deployment, the little service members were greeted with cheers and homemade welcome home signs by family and friends. While their deployment only lasted a few hours, the hugs the kids received were just as big and the kisses were just as long as if they had been gone a year or more.