There are more than 115,000 Americans whose sacrifices in the war on terrorism are often forgotten: the children whose parents have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Those kids are gaining a voice--and a break--through Operation Purple, a privately funded program of 26 sleep-away camps in 22 states where art therapy, open discussion and old-fashioned summer fun ease the trauma of having a soldier parent deployed. Kuuipo Ordway, who oversees behavioral health at the camps--free for 8-to-18-year-olds who have a parent deployed--says they need outlets. "They're angry and scared," she says, but "proud of their parents."
A lasting benefit--especially for those who don't live on a military base--is the support network built during their week at camp. "Nonmilitary people don't know what it's like to have someone you love in an uncivilized, faraway place tell you on the phone, 'Oh, that's a car bomb going off, but I'm kind of used to it,'" says Courtney Rinnert, 11, whose Army Reservist stepdad spent 15 months in Iraq. "These people share the same experience as you."