I 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.
During my week at camp, the professional camp staff with the Tsuga Community Commission 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 at camp.
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 who opened my eyes to see that even though there aren’t any active military installations in Oregon (where I lived), 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. I joined the same Tsuga staff who 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 NMFA’s 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 Military Kids Serve, Too!®
It’s that time of year: Operation Purple camp applications are online now! Find a camp near you and give your child the experience of a lifetime!
Posted by Lauren Miner, Former Operation Purple Camp Attendee and Counselor