There are approximately two million military kids in the United States. These are children who have at least one parent active in the military. They face many of the same challenges and stresses as their parents: frequent relocations, deployment, and reintegration. Thankfully there are organizations that focus on these children. We had the opportunity to volunteer with one of those organizations this week that serves military kids right here in Indiana.
Operation Military Kids is the U.S. Army’s collaborative effort with individual communities across our country to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether it is a first time deployment, the second or third time or just another in a long series of deployments, Operation Military Kids’ goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being. The program delivers educational, social, and recreation programs for military youth living in civilian communities. It also supports military kids coping with the stress of knowing their deployed parents may be in harm’s way. The program educates schools, families, and the general public on the impact of the deployment cycle on soldiers, families, kids, and the community as a whole. Each state in the United States has an OMK representative who works with other state partners to deliver programming, support and opportunities for the military kids in their respective states.
One of the tools used by OMK is Hero Packs. Hero Packs are backpacks filled by the community that contain games, toys, and resources that can be used to pass the time during a deployment. They serve as a tangible expression of support for military families from their communities. We had the opportunity to help fill Hero Packs for children right here in Indiana. We, along with about 30 other volunteers, created a large assembly line and filled the backpacks. Books, stuffed animals, pens and pencils, bracelets, jump ropes, beach balls, games, puzzles, and other items were placed into the bags. In addition, a parent packet with information about local and statewide involvement and engagement opportunities and resources was included. All of the backpacks were boxed up and will be sent to military kids throughout our state. It was quick, easy, and painless, yet rewarding. There are thousands of children right now in our state that have a parent deployed. This was our way of saying “thank you” to all of those kids for the sacrifice they, and their parents, are making for our country.
Due to the great response from our community this volunteer activity only took about thirty minutes. The OMK Indiana director said that he normally has to recruit friends and his students to help because he doesn’t get enough volunteers. Not on this occasion. More than thirty people showed up to help out on a Friday night. It was awesome to see so many people sacrifice a little bit of time for those who give the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Men and women put their lives on the line for us each and every day. Freedom is not free and we have all military personnel, past and present, to thank. They not only risk their lives for us, but they also sacrifice time with the families, their children. I often feel like I should do more to honor and thank our service men and women. It was nice to do that this week in a very small way.
What are you doing to honor and thank our military and their kids?