By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander
Being an Army brat isn’t easy. I should know—I used to be one. Over the last few days, I’ve gotten to meet some very special Army brats: the children of severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans.
While their parents spend the week working at the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Symposium, these kids had a blast. At Operation Purple®, an urban adventure camp hosted by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), they got to do some really cool stuff. They went to Sea World, horseback riding, archery, swimming, and so much more. I have to admit that I was a little jealous of AW2 Director COL Jim Rice, who got to spend a whole day with the kids at Camp Flaming Arrow.
The kids did some work too in the middle of all that fun. On the last night of the AW2 Symposium, 17-year-old Kyle McCormick briefed me, AW2 staff, NMFA, and all the parents on the ways to make camp even better next year, including:
- Separate activities for each Operation Purple® camp (OPC) age group
- Make OPC a residential, not day, camp
- Create a website and Facebook page for AW2 teens
- Establish longer duration of OPC to two weeks with more hours each day
- Allow more free time during OPC
Afterward, Kyle talked about his OPC experience. “I didn’t expect to have fun,” he said. “But the counselors were really good at knowing what teens want to do. I really had an awesome time.”
And the parents agreed.
“My 15-year-old daughter fought me about coming to camp,” said AW2 caregiver Maria Mendez-Valentin. “After the first day, she was so excited—there were a lot of other kids her age, and they talked about their feelings toward their injured Soldier. It was really helpful in opening up the conversation for our Family.”
Thanks to all the AW2 kids—both the ones who came to OPC and those throughout the country who are dealing with a wounded parent. Thanks for the support you give your parents and the joy you bring to their lives. You are an important part of their recovery and return back to life.