'Tis the season for sleep away camp — and for 100 kids attending a weeklong camp in the tiny Rocky Mountain town of Larkspur organized it's no exception. The only difference is, the camp is free, and sponsored by the National Military Family Association. The association is hosting 10,000 campers in 37 states this summer — with a special mission: to help both veterans and their kids deal with the stresses of deployment.
There are more than 155,000 American children with a parent deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, and though their parents have a tough job, the kids at home bear a burden too. With dad or mom gone, days can easily fill with loneliness and anxiety over their parents in combat. S'mores, songs, and sleeping under the stars with new friends who understand their situation is a big help. The typical camp activities are there — but they're geared toward the service as well. Instead of writing letters home the kids' notes will be dispatched to brighten military dining halls overseas. One camper says, "It's nice to help more than just our parents."
One entire wall of the dining hall is plastered with photos of parents serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. A note scrawled on one reads, "So me and my brother all have to be strong and make sacrifices for my dad because we all want him to come back."