For military kids, when Mom or Dad heads off to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying goodbye can be the most heartwrenching and difficult experience.
Camp Abnaki, a rural retreat in northern Vermont, is reaching out to military kids by offering a free weeklong camping experience to help them step out of the tough situation, let loose, and have a great time.
Reported by The Burlington Free Press, 7-year-old Asher Young says of the camp:
There are no stress feelings here. My dad’s leaving Thursday, but this fun is distracting. We don’t talk about our parents that much because those things could make people feel stressed out, and I care about the other kids so I don’t want that.
In the U.S., 1.7 million American children have at least one parent serving in the military. Approximately 900,000 children have had one or both parents deployed multiple times.
Vermont has no army base; so most of these kids don't have many people to relate to about their family situations.
Angela Wells has two boys attending the camp and is also a counselor. She told The Burlington Free Press that the kids' connection is "unspoken" and that "they’re not pressured to talk about it."
Vermont National Guard Child and Youth Program Director Anne Gorrgian added that "they want to let down their guard and be kids.”
For military kids left at home while their parents serve in foreign conflicts, recreational support programs are essential. In April 2010, ABC News wrote a piece about the importance of extracurricular activities for military kids.
Denise Gonzalez, a military wife and mother, spoke about the impact her husband serving overseas has on their children. She said, "It's his choice to be in the military, it's my choice to be his wife, but the kids have no choice. It's their uncontrolled situation."