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Operation Purple Camp supports nation’s youngest heroes

  • Published
  • By Airman Whitney Amstutz
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The Black Drongos and Coconut Crabs who call Andersen's Serena Beach home, learned to share this week when a group of our nation's youngest heroes unloaded on the shore for a week of camping and independence Aug. 2.

Operation Purple Camp is a joint initiative sponsored by the National Military Family Association for children with parents who have been, are, or will be deployed. The goal of the program is to empower military families to develop and maintain healthy relationships despite the current military climate. Campers participate in a variety of activities such as rock climbing and swimming, and they are also given the opportunity to explore the various aspects of military life.

"The kids are often curious about what their parents do when they are away on deployments," said Jillene Tardiff, Operation Purple Camp coordinator. "We help them to understand by teaching them about equipment and procedures in a hands-on, fun way. For example, several of the kids took a trip out to the flightline and dressed up in firefighter gear. They really get a kick out of it and it's a great way to learn."

When it began in 2004, Operation Purple Camp was able to affect the lives of nearly 1,000 children at 12 different locations in the United States. Today, that number has grown exponentially.

"Last year, Operation Purple Camp helped upwards of 30,000 campers," Mrs. Tardiff said. "The slots fill up faster and faster each year. If there was any question before, now we know for sure we are providing a valuable service to these kids and their families."

The camps developed after parents recognized the need to help their children better understand the military lifestyle.

"The program started six summers ago," Mrs. Tardiff said. "Parents were noticing that their kids had trouble dealing with deployments. As a result, Operation Purple Camp was created to help servicemembers help their children."

The campers aren't the only ones benefiting from this non-profit organization.

Lieutenant Michael Arzabal, a civilian from fire and energy services, finds the time he spends with the Operation Purple Campers rewarding.

"It is definitely time well spent," Lieutenant Arzabal said. "Some of these kids really enjoy learning about the military and I had a good time showing them. I volunteered in the hope that someday one or two of these children will be inspired to be first responders. They can live out their hopes and dream, whatever they may be and we need to encourage them.