Local News

Soldiers' children can forget war at summer camps

Posted August 6, 2010 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2010 9:05 a.m. EDT

A trip to Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in Halifax County capped a weeklong summer camp for the children of servicemembers deployed overseas.

— At a summer camp in Halifax County, the children of deployed service members can forget about having to say goodbye and focus on having fun.

For three years, Halifax County has been part of Operation Purple, which operates about 60 summer camps around the country for children whose parents are, have been or will be deployed overseas.

"Here at camp, we realize that children serve, too," said Joe Long with Operation Purple Camp.

Camper Allie Wilkerson, 11, said she deeply misses her father who is serving in Afghanistan.

"When he's gone, it fells like there's an empty part in my heart that's just gone," Allie said.

Such feelings were common among the 10- to 15-year-old campers who gathered in Halifax County this week, Long said.

"They want to cry. They don't want to sit there and do it in front of you, but they're really tore up," he said.

Operation Purple Camp takes the children's minds off the realities of war and lets them have worry-free, summer fun.

This year's camp was capped with a trip to see parrots and other exotic birds at the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park.

"You got to go to a lot of fun places," said 12-year-old camper Elijah Ellis, whose mother is serving in Hong Kong.

"I think it's awesome," Allie said.

Campers said they enjoyed the companionship of other children in their same situation.

"I don't really feel like I'm alone and stuff," said 12-year-old camper Issac Ham, whose mother is deployed to Kenya. "(It's) the best camp I've ever seen or been to."

Experiences like Issac's are the whole reason volunteers and donors keep the Operation Purple camps running, Long said.

"The kids are our heroes," Long said.