|FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, July 27, 2009) --
More than 50 children of Soldiers who are deployed, or awaiting deployment,
participated in "Freedom Camp" June 29 through July 3, just outside of
The children, ranging in age from 13 to 18, participated in rappelling, ran
an obstacle course and completed mock Soldier Readiness Processing in order
to understand what their parents experience.
The first day, the children met at the Soldier Readiness
Processing center where they underwent an administrative process like their
parents go through when preparing to deploy.
"They hear their parents say, 'I'm getting ready to go SRP' or 'I'm going to
process today,' and a lot of times the kids don't understand what that is,"
said Debbie Trexler, director for Youth Education Support Services at Fort
Bliss, Texas. "They just know that before deployment, they're losing their
family member again to be gone for the day. With this [mock SRP], they're
understanding how important it is to be able to check off the finance
paperwork, [and] to check all the personnel paperwork to make sure their
servicemember, and as importantly, their families, are taken care of before
Once the children completed the SRP, they loaded their gear on the bus,
which took them to the obstacle course. After completing the obstacle
course, they rappelled down the 50-foot tower. Daniel Barlow said even
though this was his fourth time rappelling, he felt nervous at first.
"At first when you're up there and you look down it's kind of scary, [but]
once you've already gotten off the scary part of jumping, it's actually
pretty fun," said Daniel.
After they finished rappelling they headed to Bonita Park where they took
part in numerous activities including drill and ceremony, high ropes,
physical training, zip-lining, rock wall climbing, paint ball and more.
Damaris Esther Lopez-Sanchez, said she found the drill and ceremony a bit
"Doing the back thing from left to right [and] turning around got confusing
after a while," said Damaris.
There were Soldiers on site to answer questions about what Soldiers do on a
daily basis. A whole day was dedicated to showing equipment and protective
gear used by troops as they train for deployment.
"There's a lot of things that a deployed parent doesn't have time to tell
their children on the phone because it's such a hectic environment, so this
gives them the opportunity to ask, "'Why is mom or dad so tired when they
talk,'" or "'Why couldn't they call me tonight,'" said Spc. Jerry Anderson
from 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
Fourteen-year-old Luis Rivera-Nesrala said one of the most precious things
he and his peers learned from Freedom Camp was keeping the lines of
communication open with their deployed parents. Luis will be experiencing
his dad's deployment for the second time. The first time his father deployed
Luis was 8 years old.
"For so many years we get to hear when our parents come home at night how
their day was. Then here at the camp, we had an opportunity to actually
experience and know what they go through," Luis said. "It's not as easy as
it looks. You have to understand no matter what your age is, that it's not
the Soldiers' fault. They're off [deployed] because they're serving their
country. They're away, and they're very stressed out, and when they get to
communicate with their families, that gives them an extra boost."