A Camp to Honor Military Kids

July 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Central Valley camp is honoring kids for their service to their country. "Operation Purple" is located at the Sequoia Lake YMCA, just off of the 180 freeway. It's a camp for kids whose parents are or have been overseas fighting the war. "Marine brat" is what Soriyah Spence scribbles on a memory wall. It's a label that bonds many of the kids at the camp like 8-year-old Hayden Hoekstra from Lemoore who described his dad's job, "He flies the F-18 Super Hornet." Hayden is very proud of his dad who is overseas fighting in the war.

You'll find the normal signs of camp life at "Operation Purple." But there's clearly a military twist. Kids hold fake assault rifles to get them acclimated to their parent's duty. Hayden said he can relate to almost all the 46-other campers, "It's very cool ? because you are meeting other kids that know what it feels like to have parents in the military."

During the past two weeks, more than 100 kids have come to the camp. They posted pictures of their parents on the "Hero Wall"- a dedication to mom and dad's service to their country. Camp youth director Alex Ainley said some of the campers come with hard feelings towards the military. Ainley said, "Which is kind of interesting because of their parents are overseas or have been overseas for a long time, so the emotional aspect of the camp, and the emotion that sometimes run-a-muck are a little more intense than our usual camps."

For Soriyah, she'll be leaving "Operation Purple" with a new appreciation for the military and something very special. Spence said, "Friends that I am going to see one day, because everyone moves and so do I."

Camp organizers hope to expand operation purple next year. They want to make it 4 weeks long and accommodate twice as many kids whose parents are fighting the war.


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