Some 2.5 million military service members fought in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, often deploying multiple times. Many returned with physical, emotional and mental scars.
It’s not just the troops who face the effects of war. Hundreds of thousands of children in America are now dealing emotionally after a parent served in distant and dangerous territory.
These kids often carry big burdens. They may feel responsible for their families -- or feel like they have to fill the shoes of a missing parent, acting as caregivers.
Sometimes, like the adults dealing with the aftermath of wartime deployment, these children need a respite from their everyday lives, a place where they can be with other kids with similar experiences.
Here in Colorado, they can do that at camps created specifically for the children of military service members.
Camp Director Lori Miller has spent the last four summers working with military youth at Rocky Mountain Adventure Camp at Pingree Park in Poudre Canyon outside of Fort Collins.
She says the kids at RMAC do a lot of the same things that kids at any camp do, like hiking, rafting and having fun in nature. Yet RMAC also has activities designed to help the youngsters face the challenges in a military family.
“We provide environment that’s safe, accepting and and respectful of campers as well as parents,” Miller says. "We help kids learn to recognize what strengths they have and focus on what’s happening right now and not worrying about home. It’s a pretty powerful combination.”
About 45 teens aged 14-18 can attend one of the three-night, four-day sessions at RMAC.
Camp Corral is another camp for military youth that has been offered at Pingree Park in previous years. At this camp, the children 8-15 of military service members wounded or killed during war are given priority registration for free weeklong camps at various locations nationwide.