– By Emily Oehler, AW2 Strategic Communications –
For several days, I have been immersed in the logistics of the AW2 Symposium … helping with media briefing, editing newsletters, getting photographs, creating PowerPoint slides, answering questions as a subject matter expert. Nose to the grindstone. Occasionally looking up to really see, I mean really see, what was around me. Tonight, it all hit me like a ton of bricks. Throughout the week, I have interacted with the kids in Operation Purple. The first day a young six-year old girl who was clinging to my leg, reluctant to join a group of strangers clinging a bit to my leg. Two days later, chaperoning several kids to a local minor league baseball game – their first. The next day, riding in the elevator listening to a group of teenagers talk about needing a picture of their group for their Facebook page they were creating and then collecting email addresses. Tonight, well tonight was the grand finale. Thirty-eight 5-17 year olds shared with their parents some of their experiences from the week during a closing ceremony. As I listened to the camp counselors talk about the week, and their admiration for the kids and then listened to the kids share some of the personal stories, I was overwhelmed – and the tears hit. They spoke of feeling awkward when people stared at their parents (who are severely wounded), they shared how great it was to hang out with other kids who understood and they didn’t even have to say a word, and they smiled about all the fun they had had during the week. Then, each child gave their parent a dog tag with a moon… a moon because where ever you are, the moon is there – bright in the night, a constant, a touchstone. These kids shared that, for them, their parents were their moon. The next dog tag featured a bear – to represent the strength of each soldier and parent. These kids were able to share with their heroes, their parents, their pride in all they had accomplished and everything they worked hard to overcome. To see children honor their parents – to give them support, love and encouragement was amazing… and shows that they have the warrior spirit of their parents. With each presentation my emotions ran from heartache to laugher to pride to awe and back again. I saw, I mean really saw, the importance of this program, this event, this camp, this focus on families, and this work to improve the system.
To the children here – you have opened my eyes and my heart, and I wish for you the moon.