This story was originally covered by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.
While parents are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, their children are sacrificing for the military, too. "It's a different type of service, it's a different type of sacrifice, but definitely the kids do serve, too," Bailey Bernius of the National Military Family Association told PRI's The World. "And sometimes the kids haven't ever heard that before, so it's nice to be able to let them know that."
Bernius helps run Operation Purple, a program that offers the authentic, summer camp experience for children with parents in the Armed Forces for free. This summer, 14,000 kids applied for the 10,000 spots at Operation Purple camps.
The program offers children the opportunity to socialize with other children who are going though some of the same issues they are. One 11-year-old camper told The World, "here at Operation Purple, I feel like I can relate to most of the people here." She added, "We can say we've all been through this, or soon to be through this."
In most ways, the camp resembles any other. "You get to ride horses, you do archery, and lots of fun stuff," a 9-year-old camper explained. When things get difficult, however, it can be nice to have someone around who understands. The 9-year-old told The World how she helps campers who are having a hard time: "You say 'we're always here for you.' And you always give them hugs and stuff."
That shared experience may be the reason why the military children seem to treat each other better than other camp kids. A counselor told The World: "I haven't seen as much cattiness. Or arguing. I think, on one level, they do get that everyone's going through the same thing right now. So I think they kind of stick together a little bit more."
Operation Purple may not be able to solve the problems faced by military children. But it can give them a little relief, a little community and a little fun.
PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."