‘Hero packs’ send positive message

Kids in military families focus of project

Posted: Monday, December 19, 2005

For the men and women who find themselves serving as soldiers in Iraq, their deployment was likely not a surprise since it was, and is, a real possibility for anyone who enlists.

However, the children they leave behind didn’t enlist or agree to give up a parent for military pursuits, but they find themselves one parent short, or alone, just the same. That’s where Operation Military Kids comes in.

Under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Army Youth Development project, the Army National Guard and National 4-H headquarters have partnered to help children whose parents have been mobilized.

“They’ve partnered to donate ‘Hero packs’ to the kids,” said Nancy Veal, Kenai Peninsula’s 4-H youth development agent.

She explained that the packs — and the programs associated to get them to the children — create a community support network for kids: before, during and after their parents are deployed.

The packs themselves include several items, such as a frisbee, ball cap, plush toy, notebook and the New York Times bestseller “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn, which chronicles the adventure of how a lonely raccoon that left home finds reassurance and strength.

“Some items are for comfort, play or encouragement. They’re all very thoughtful items,” Veal said.

She added that 4-H children also wrote letters to the military children to thank them for their sacrifices, and these letters were included in the pack’s contents.

More than 500 packs were given out in 2005, 24 of those on the peninsula, with a few more still to go out before the holidays. Veal said, so far, the packs have been well-received.

“The kids I’ve taken them to had a lot of fun opening the packs up, and they made the kids feel very special,” she said.

Veal said, overall, she thought the project was a wonderful idea.

“These children need to know we care, but it is also important that 4-H kids know that this is an issue, that some kids and families aren’t together right now,” she said.

“It’s a really good kids on kids project,” she added.

For more information on the project, visit www.operationmilitarykids.org.

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