By Staff Sgt. Katrina F. Timmons
Alabama National Guard
(7/12/10) -- The Alabama National Guard's Family Readiness Program is dedicated to ensuring Alabama Guard youth are equipped to handle the challenges of military life.
Challenges such as separation, deployments and moving cause big stress on even the most seasoned Soldier, and they can be overwhelming for a child.
So, what's the best way to prepare youth for the challenges of military life? Give them opportunities to overcome challenges in a fun and supportive way. The Alabama Guard has found a way to provide such opportunities - summer camp.
So far this summer, the Alabama Guard, in conjunction with Operation Military Kids, has conducted two camps for its military youth with another scheduled for the first week of August.
Although fun is the key ingredient to these camps, and there is much fun to be had, overcoming challenges and developing team building skills are also key. At this year's Fort Camp Clover, held at the Alabama 4-H center in Columbiana, Ala., military youth were exposed to such challenges as caving, rock climbing, canoeing, archery, a giant body swing and a thirty-foot cable course with a zip line.
Paul Morton, an Army Youth Development Program specialist, said overcoming such challenges make for resilient youth. "When a child accomplishes something they never thought possible, it empowers them to take on more challenges, the ones they want and the ones they don't."
It is also important to expose these kids to other youth who understand the hardships of having a parent(s) in the military. "These kids are tough," said Morton. "They're much more mature than their peers; they have a unique ability to roll with the punches of life and come out unscathed."
Another noble quality these kids possess is tolerance, said Staff Sgt. Doug Howard, a volunteer counselor for the 2010 Fort Camp Clover. "I have three children, two of which attended this year's camp, and I know firsthand how cruel kids can be to those they see as different and I am truly impressed with the way these kids, these military kids, have accepted each other as equals."
Howard said that he never saw one incidence of bullying or excessive teasing from any of the youth at camp. "It's a true testament to their character."
Characteristics such as tolerance can only be learned through the hardships of life. Helen Keller said that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. Perhaps the hardships military youth experience have equipped them to deal with the responsibilities and adversities that others have yet to learn.