The unexpected many years of global conflict since 9/11 have taken their toll on more than just the service members – their families, most especially their children, have paid a significant price by living with the anxiety and stress associated with multiple deployments, safety concerns for the absent parent or caregiver, media coverage overload, and often additional family responsibilities or relocation. National Guard and Reserve forces were activated to join with Active Duty on the battlefield leaving many children in a strange new world – being in a military family and not knowing other military kids in similar circumstances, whether in the same community, next town, or across the country.

The National Military Family Association, a respected advocacy organization that has fought to protect and strengthen quality of life for military families since 1969, launched the Operation Purple ® Camp program in 2004. This no-cost camp program for military children of the deployed was designed to bring children and youth together in an outdoor setting so that they could meet other military kids going through similar experiences, reduce some of the stress they were feeling, and just have fun being a kid again. The model includes teaching communication skills, introducing concept of stewardship for self, neighbor, and community, providing a military-theme event, and using the healing aspects of being in the outdoors. This article describes in further detail the how and why Operation Purple Camps, relevant when first launched, remain relevant and needed for military children today. For today and going forward, they not only will experience continued deployments, in some cases on a smaller scale, but will also face the many challenges associated with reintegrating a long absent parent or caregiver back into the family unit.

Author Biography

Theresa T. Buchanan, BSN, JD, joined the staff of the National Military Family Association in September 2009 as Deputy Director, Youth Initiatives. She was promoted to Director of Youth Initiatives in July 2010. After having been a member of the Board of Governors of the Association since 2002 and having had a career dedicated to improving the quality of life for military families, she is now responsible for management and direction of the Operation Purple® program that includes summer camps for military children of the deployed, family retreats for military families experiencing the challenges of reunion and reintegration following deployment, and specialized family camps for the wounded and their families. She identifies and promotes various military children and family initiatives and serves as a subject matter expert on issues related to mental health and deployment issues impacting military children and families. She developed and implemented the U.S. Navy’s New Parent Support Team Program, championed joint collaboration and has served on numerous boards and committees. Ms. Buchanan brings broad experience as a former military senior spouse, mother, and military family law resource and volunteer to her current position. She earned a BS in Nursing from Sonoma State University and a JD from Creighton University School of Law. She is the current editor of Roll Call, newsletter of the American Bar Association’s Military Family Law Section. Admitted in both Nebraska and Rhode Island, she has practiced in the fields of family law, elder law and bankruptcy.