Great Outdoors America Week: OAK/Sierra Club Briefing on Military Kids and Outdoors
In a sense, military kids serve right alongside their deployed parents. These children carry the burden of “holding down the fort”, while their parent(s) are away for long stretches of time. Many are navigating the demands of school while balancing the needs of their household, such as caring for younger siblings, an ailing parent, and household chores among other things.
The distinguished panel, which included the Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works); Michael Odle, US Department of Agriculture, Captain, Air National Guard as well as members of Blue Star Families, YMCA of the USA and the Maryland Park Service, delved into the importance of the outdoors for military kids.
Camping programs such as Operation Purple provide military kids with a reprieve from their day to day life with a week in the outdoors. Many military families struggle to pay for any “extras” such as camp, and programs like these allow for families to send children to camp free of charge. Not only are the camps set up for fun in the outdoors such as hiking, kayaking, and archery, but they also provide counselors that discuss long-term deployments and other the issues facing military kids.
Aside from camps, many parks across the country are offering free passes for military kids and their families—to help them reconnect with nature and one another, and decompress from the stress of military life. The panelists agreed that being in the outdoors allows both children and their families to heal. The moderator of the panel Stacy Bare of the Sierra Club said “military kids are our littlest heroes who also bear the brunt of war”.
The briefing was very well-attended, with many congressional staff commenting that they’ve “never attended such a feel-good event on the Hill”.
Full list of panelists:
Stacy Bare, Moderator, Sierra Club
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
Michael Odle, US Department of Agriculture, Captain, Air National Guard
Theresa Buchanan, National Military Families Association
Katie Adamson, YMCA of the USA
Sheri Robey-Lapam, Blue Star Families
Major Gary Burnett, Maryland Park Service