Category Archives: Military kids

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testament

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testamentI was born into the military. My dad is a West Point graduate, and for most of my childhood I was the only one in my class who had immediate family serving in the military. Many of my peers did not know or understand what I was going through. It’s one of those things in life that unless you are living it, you can’t 100% understand it. I often felt alone and kept my feelings inside thinking nobody could relate.

But life changed as I knew it when my dad was deployed during Operation: Iraqi Freedom. That year I had turned the big 13, a significant time in every teenager’s life, and received a life changing opportunity – I attended the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple® camp. The professional camp staff with the Tsuga Community Commission that week helped me address the negative feelings I had bottled up inside about my father’s service. It allowed me to be part of a community that I didn’t know existed and feel proud of my family instead of feeling embarrassed and alone. I was able to escape the hardships and struggles, focusing on being just a kid that week.

My father deployed again to Afghanistan a few years later when I was a sophomore in high school and I was able to attend Operation Purple camp again, this time bringing my younger sister for the first time. Watching her flourish that week is something I’ll never forget. She gained confidence and a feeling of belonging that she had been lacking. Something I believe many military kids struggle with in silence.

It was the Tsuga staff that brought the Operation Purple program to Oregon who opened my eyes to see that even through there aren’t any active military installations in Oregon, a support system was actually out there for military children. It helped draw out my inner leader and inspired me to become a camp counselor at Operation Purple camp and join the Tsuga staff that helped me out so much.

After two summers of working with military children, I was able to identify that my passion lies in serving others and being part of something bigger than myself. Operation Purple camp holds a special place in my heart because of what it did, not only for me, but my family and many others like it. Without these nonprofit programs, our military’s youth would be without a resource that provides support and community for our dependents that need it the most.

We cannot forget that our Kids Serve Too.

Posted by Lauren Miner, Former Operation Purple Camp Attendee and Counselor 

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators play

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators playEvery military family knows that moving is just a fact of life. My own family has moved more times than I care to count and my children, who are now 14 and 12, attended two preschools and five elementary schools. Being the new kid in school is normal for them, and like most military kids they have handled our moves smoothly – more smoothly than I have, in fact! Still, as a parent, it’s hard not to worry about the effects of so much change.

Military parents do their best to make moving as painless as possible for their children, but schools have a vital role to play as well. I know from personal experience that the new school can make a huge difference during those first days and weeks. After our last move, a greeter at the front door of the elementary school recognized immediately that my daughter was a new student and welcomed her with a warm smile and big hug on her first day. Her new classroom teacher matched her with a buddy to help show her around the school and sit with her at lunch. She came home all smiles and within a few short weeks it was as if she had never gone to school anywhere else.

Sadly, though, our good experience is not universal. Unless schools take steps to ease the transition for students as they move in and out, it can be difficult for highly mobile kids to fit in – and sooner or later, their grades will start to suffer. Knowing this, I have been excited to hear more about steps that teachers, administrators, and even our Nation’s leaders are taking to help our military kids. Last year, the Obama Administration, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education launched Operation Educate the Educators, an effort to get colleges and universities to include information on the challenges faced by military children in their teacher education programs. More than 100 higher education institutions are already participating.

Probably no school system has more experience with transitioning students than the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA). DoDEA teachers and staff are used to highly mobile students and treat transition as a normal part of life. They have developed routines to welcome new students and – just as importantly – say goodbye to children who are preparing to move away.

Some public schools with a high concentration of military kids have followed DoDEA’s example and adopted innovative strategies to help students transition. Schools can create newcomers’ clubs or match new children with a buddy. Other schools have gone even further and set up transition rooms, a type of welcome center for new families. There they can learn about school activities, community resources, receive a tour, fill out questionnaires about their needs and situation, and meet other parents and students. Another good idea is to appoint one staffer as a “transition specialist,” who can greet families when they arrive to register, keep track of whether new students are making friends, help students cope with a new set of school rules, and answer parents’ questions.

Moving is always going to be part of life in the military, but transitions don’t have to negatively affect our kids’ experience in school. Check out our Military Kids Toolkit section on Transition for more ideas to help make your child’s move a little bit easier.

What do you think schools should do to help military children transition? What has worked for you and your family? Share your experiences below.

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

The Best Thing About Being a Military Kid!

The best thing about being a military kidWhat’s the best thing about being a military kid? Some might say seeing new places, some might say making new friends, and some might even say learning new languages and cultures, but for me, the best thing about being a military kid is the person I have become along the way.

In September 2012, I joined a boys’ soccer team here in Italy, where we live now. At that time, I was the only girl and only American on the team. You might be thinking that this has nothing to do with being a military kid, but it does. In ten years, I have moved six times, attended five schools, been without my dad for months at a time and joined countless sports teams.

When I was younger, I was very shy and dreaded moving because it meant that everything was going to change. Each time, I gained a little more self-confidence. I joined sports teams and attended camps and activities to help me make friends at each new place. I actually started to look forward to moving without being scared.

I now try to take advantage of every opportunity that our new home offers. I have even run in a few 5K races here in Italy. Being a military kid has made me stronger and more outgoing. I look for challenges and I try to always be the best I can be.

I have played soccer for seven years and I am really appreciative to be playing on the boys’ team. Even though I get a little nervous sometimes, I would’ve never had the courage to go play on a team where I can’t speak or understand the language. I really love soccer and don’t know what I would do without it. Being a military kid has given me more courage, so that I could be brave enough to play.

My Army life has taught me to adapt to new situations, to be kind and understanding, to be brave, and to never give up when things get hard. I believe that all of the things I have been through as a military kid have made me strong and brave. I am proud to be a military kid and I look forward to the next opportunity the Army has for me and my family.

Guest Post by Delaney Edger, age 10, military child

April is the Month of the Military Child – Let’s Celebrate!

Happy Month of the Military Child!In 1986, when Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child,” could he have imagined how relevant his vision would still be today? In 1986, many people assumed military kids were dealing with the same challenges, successes, and disappointments that any other kid might encounter. They were. But boy did we find out there was so much more to being a military kid!

Today we kick off the official celebration of our military kids – for their accomplishments and resilience. We recognize that some kids are dealing with struggles that neither Secretary Weinberger nor any of us could have imagined. The global conflicts since 9/11 have forever changed our lives. In the early days of conflict and in response to parents asking for help, the National Military Family Association launched our Operation Purple® summer camp program to help military kids cope with the stress they were experiencing. Stress from their dad or mom being in a war zone, stress from the ever-present media coverage of combat, stress related to the separation from a loved one, and stress from feeling alone.

This summer marks the tenth year of Operation Purple camp. Nearly 47,000 military children from around the world have had the chance to meet other kids at a place where they can just be kids, and celebrate being in a military family. At camp, military kids create a “Wall of Honor” to showcase the pride they feel toward their special family member who is serving. Kids raise their hands to share “top ten things” about being a military child or being at camp and have the chance to talk with each other about what bothers them and what makes them tick.

All of these activities are integrated into the well-known camp stuff like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, campfires, you name it. Operation Purple camp gives military children, who are unique yet the same, an opportunity to connect.

Ten years have passed and we never expected to be in this market for this long. Thanks to past generosity from Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Sierra Club Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, and countless individual donors, we have been able to serve our military kids. And while we didn’t expect to host camps for as long as we have, we know now is not the time to leave. Our kids are too important to our future – for all of us.

As we celebrate our military children this April, our work continues. We want this month to not only acknowledge how strong military kids are, but to also focus on supporting them as they grow up in the military community. Thank you, Secretary Weinberger, for bringing this awareness through the proclamation so many years ago. Now it is up to all of us to make sure we keep our military kids safe, loved, and celebrated – not only in April but through the entire year!

We want to celebrate by featuring YOUR military kid! Throughout April on our Facebook page and website, we will post videos, photos, and quotes from military kids around the country. Submit yours today!

On behalf of the National Military Family Association, we thank you and your children for their service and sacrifice. Together we’re stronger.

theresaPosted by Theresa Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director at the National Military Family Association

Military families: did you know you can take a free college or language course online?

Military spouses: take a college course or learn a language online, for free!Military families face tough decisions when selecting a higher education program. Location, scholarships, standardized tests, getting accepted, and selecting the right program are just a few reasons to postpone taking the step.

The good news is that now military families everywhere, and anybody else interested, can enjoy free courses by professors at renowned universities across the United States. Harvard, Colombia, UCLA, Duke, Princeton, and Stanford are just a few of the universities accessible to all students.

The courses are available through online platforms where prospective students enroll by simply creating a login and joining a class, absolutely free. One of the top websites for free education, and my personal favorite, is Coursera. There is a wide variety of classes, ranging from computer sciences and finance to healthcare and entrepreneurship.

Once you join a class, you have access to the video lectures posted by the professors, weekly assignments and quizzes. You can also join discussion forums and even meet fellow students living in your area. Courses can last anywhere between two to 12 weeks and students can enroll in as many courses as they feel comfortable. There are always new courses that open up and with more than 300 courses to choose from, you cannot miss a class that you like.

Apart from being free, another important benefit is that you can take them at your own convenience. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can take the classes from virtually anywhere in the world, 24/7. While these courses are not accredited by the respective universities, upon successful completion of a course, students will receive a certificate signed by the professor. This certificate can be a great addition to your resume and enhance your educational and professional development.

Another website for free education is Udacity. The website was created by Stanford professionals and only offers courses in science- and math-related topics. One highlight of the classes offered is that they are free of deadlines and quizzes.

A third option is Open Culture. This is a cultural and educational media with an impressive collection of over 400 courses. Plus, students can watch free classic movies.

For those that would like to learn a foreign language for free, Memrise might just be the perfect option. Memrise offers access to a variety of languages including sign language, and various other education topics.

No matter which site you choose, you have the opportunity to discover the course of study you want to pursue absolutely free. In addition to broadening your horizons and gaining knowledge on a topic, the achievement certificate you receive upon successful completion of some courses can turn out to be a useful tool when searching for a job. Be sure to visit the Spouse Education section of our website for more information on pursuing your education goals.

What courses will you enroll in this week?

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Operation Purple camp for military kids: apply now!

Ten years ago, the National Military Family Association heard the same thing over and over from military parents: “How can we help our kids deal with deployment?” Our answer? A free, week-long camp experience for military kids to get to know each other, share common bonds, and have a blast!

Operation Purple® camp offers military kids a time to get away and be kids in a stress-free environment. Campers ride horses, climb towers, plummet down water slides – all in a “purple” environment. The very name of the game is to bring kids of all ranks and services, including reserve and guard components, together to enjoy a very special week of camp. This experience is unmatched by any other programs currently serving military kids.

These days, what we’re hearing from military parents is: “Thank you for Operation Purple camp!” Thousands of military children have experienced the joy of camp, and this year we are focusing on getting the word out to families who have never had the opportunity to share in the fun. If your child has attended Operation Purple in the past, tell a friend and encourage them to apply! The application is available beginning today.

Check out the video below for a little peek into an Operation Purple camp.

Has your child attended an Operation Purple camp in the past 10 years? If so, tell us the best part of their experience!

dustinPosted by Dustin Weiss, Youth Initiatives Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Recent CDC allegations: rebuilding trust and communication

Tips for communicating with child care providersI remember the first time I dropped my then toddler (now teenager) off at preschool. He was so proud of his new backpack and lunch box and so excited to go off to school like a big kid. Without a moment’s hesitation, he dropped my hand and dashed through the classroom door, eager to begin his new adventure. I, of course, was terrified. The thought of leaving my little one with someone else for hours at a time was overwhelming – even when that someone else was a beloved preschool teacher. How could I be sure that he would be safe, happy, and taken care of?

Leaving your child in someone else’s care requires a leap of faith. As parents of small children we painstakingly review our child care options to find the setting and provider that is the best fit for our families. Most of the time, the faith we place in our child care providers is rewarded and our children thrive.

On a rare occasion, however, a child care provider betrays a parent’s trust. Parents of children at the Fort Myer Child Development Center (CDC) were shocked to learn that two staffers allegedly abused children in their care, while others were found to have criminal records that were not uncovered in background checks. While the staffers in question have been removed from the CDC and an investigation is ongoing, the parents’ trust in the CDC has understandably been shaken.

I attended a town hall meeting for Fort Myer CDC families and it is clear families and staff want to rebuild trust. They are finding that communication is key. Parents need reliable and timely information about how their children are being cared for and what steps are being taken to ensure their safety. They also need a way to express their concerns and feel that their voices are being heard.

At Fort Myer, installation officials and CDC staff are taking steps to open the lines of communication. Town Hall meetings have been held, giving parents an open forum to air their concerns. Parents have also been encouraged to use the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system to let commanders know about any issues they have with the CDC or their child care providers. The command has also used Send Word Now®, a notification system you may be familiar with in your child’s school that sends social media alerts to notify parents about CDC events via their phones or email.

When my children were in preschool I relied on a regular note in my son’s backpack to keep me informed of what was going on in his classroom, but the world has changed since then and there are many more methods we can use to communicate.

Although most parents will thankfully never face a situation like the one at the Fort Myer CDC, it’s still vital to have effective lines of communication with your child care providers. Parents need to know about last-minute schedule changes, upcoming events, and behavioral concerns that affect their kids. They also need to make sure that providers are aware of their children’s unique needs, such as a parent’s deployment or a new baby in the house. And, as seen in the Fort Myer CDC situation, parents need to know who to contact if they’re not getting the information they need from their provider or if they have concerns about the quality of care their child is receiving.

How do you keep in touch with your child’s teacher or child care provider? What method works best for you, and what hasn’t worked? 

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association