Saturday, July 01, 2006

Oklahoma National Guard Kids Camp 2006

(Mama, mama can't you see, what this camp has done for me?...)

Today marked the close of Kids Camp for 140(+) dependents ages 9-13 of active and retired Oklahoma National Guard personnel. My youngest started as a camper 3 years ago while his brother was in Iraq and returned last year as a volunteer and this year served (at the age of 15) as a group leader for the thirteen year old campers.

Things of note about this camp experience -

* many children have one or both parent(s) overseas now or has been in the last three years.
* a reduction in volunteers this year occurred due to personnel serving in active military duties overseas.
* the camp is held each year at Camp Gruber located in Braggs, OK (which served as a Hurricane Katrina relief center last year).
* although this camp has a military theme to it (no, it is not a boot camp) kids are active in projects ranging from art to science and fun activities such as swimming.

My son's impression of camp -

* when his brother (who is his role model in life) was in Iraq he was bolstered by the officers and enlisted personnel who spent the week there "filling in" the gap left by his brother's absence.
* he likes camp regardless of his duties, whether it was being a glorified gopher (as a general volunteer and camp worker last year) or by being placed as third in command (squad leader duties) over the 13 year olds this year doing everything they were expected to do and leading by example.
* he said he hollered a lot at his charges. (He doesn't remember being a 13 year old). His impression of that age group - they are sloppy, they are lazy, they whine a lot, they can be lovesick puppies, and they can say really weird things (one of his girls asked the Oklahoma Adjutant General's pilots who flew him in by chopper why they didn't paint the helicopters a "pretty color like pink").
* he was proud of them in the end, when they won the camp drill contest (cadence marching at it's best) and his nominee for best boy camper was selected. Eight hours later, he still is saying he can't believe they won.

My impression of camp -
* you see first hand the faces of kids left behind - it never fails to amaze me how earnest they are to try their hand at what Mom or Dad does daily in military life.
* even the littlest camp kids, who attend daycare while their parents serve as volunteers, want to "march like the big kids" in the parade activities at the end of camp.
* the volunteers are the military's best and (probably most) unsung hero's - given the fact they could spend a week's vacation doing anything they wanted to that didn't include the military, they choose to volunteer to spend the week with a bunch of kids in what resembles vaguely their days in boot camp.
* it has changed my son's life. He was a whining, sloppy, lazy thirteen year old when he first attended and because of camp has become a leader (through example) to a group of winners. He went from being a shy kid to a teenager that could chant cadence with some of the best drill sergeants I've seen in the years I spent as a military mother.
* My son has not left the couch, except to wash his clothes, since his return. I've got a feeling a lot of the volunteers he served with probably are spending the rest of their day the same way.

God bless our Military, their families, and especially their children. God bless those volunteers who keep coming back yearly to serve up an experience that these kids otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to enjoy.

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posted by Is It Just Me? at 4:47 PM