While the term “brat” is often considered derogatory, when it comes to military kids, it’s not – instead, it’s worn like a badge of honor. Military “brats” have learned how to deal with moving, making new friends, starting at new schools and having their parents leave for long periods of time. It’s a life that can come with a lot of stress, but it’s also what makes these kids tough and resilient.
It can still be hard, though, and that’s why it’s great that things like Operation Purple exist.
Operation Purple gives military children of deployed or injured service members a chance to go to a weeklong camp for free to relax and play with peers who get their lifestyle. At one of those camps in Maryland this week, 100 kids ages 9 to 12 got to learn from some special guests, too – about 30 soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The soldiers came in as part of the camp’s Military Experience Day to help the kids learn a few of the things their parents do, including PTing…
Learning all about gas masks…
Seeing how MRE’s are made (and learning that they might look more fun than they taste)…
Getting their faces painted in camo (while doing some face painting of their own)…
Running through a blow-up obstacle course…
And even trying on Explosive Ordnance Disposal gear that bomb technicians wear.
Army Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of Maryland, even visited camp. She flew in on a Lakota UH-72A that the kids later got to crawl through.
Singh asked the kids several questions, and got some classic responses. When asked if they knew who she was, one little boy responded, “Some kind of general?” When she asked what they’d been doing at camp on that hot, humid August day, their main response was, “Sweating!”
The kids had some questions for her, too. “I always seem to get asked if I carry a gun,” Singh said. “I actually have gotten the question, ‘Do I cook?’ which I think is an interesting question. I had to explain to them that I cook and do laundry and everything, just like a mom does.”
There’s a lot of curiosity, and the kids learn a lot more about what their parents actually do. “They work very hard to keep our country safe. Even the smallest job, like checking the weather, is very important for planes,” said 13-year-old Felicity, whose dad is in the Air Force.
That curiosity is something Singh hopes will rub off on her soldiers.
“They’re so inquisitive, and if we could continue to approach life being inquisitive about one another, then that, I think, would help us to get over so many differences that we have and so many challenges,” the two-star general said. “When you think back to being a kid and how interesting everything seemed to be, we need to continue to approach life that way.”
The camps give kids a chance to make friends who understand their family situation.
“A lot of times we see relief,” said NorthBay adventure camp Executive Director Keith Williams. “These kids are from all over the country, and they’ve got something pretty significant in common. They’re able to share that with another peer.”
The soldiers had a great time, too. Especially Army Sgt. 1st Class David Preciado, whose son, Jordan, was one of the campers. “I don’t mind coming out here and giving my time and anything else that they need from me. It’s an honor,” Preciado said.
Although, Jordan might not have seen it that way. When asked if the 9-year-old was happy to have him there, Preciado responded, “Well … yes and no!”
Kids. Gotta love ‘em!