An overseas deployment means that both soldiers and their families have to make sacrifices. Young children with mothers or fathers in the military can go for months without seeing or hearing from one of their parents. In partnership with Operation Military Kids, 4-H has mobilized youth around the country to help their friends and classmates during this difficult time for families.
One of the ways that 4-H’ers help their peers who have a parent deployed in the armed forces is by preparing Hero Packs, or knapsacks filled with items intended to provide military children with fun activities and ways to connect with their
Virginia 4-H youth have participated in Speak Out for Military Kids, a youth-driven community outreach initiative of Operation Military Kids to raise awareness of issues facing military families. 4-H’ers enrolled in the program, ages 13 and up, lead service projects including the assembly and distribution of Hero Packs, letter-writing campaigns, and care packages for soldiers.
“Since 2004, Operation Military Kids has provided Hero Packs to more than 45,000 military youth, including 915 packs in Virginia,” says Louetta Jones, the Virginia program coordinator for Operation Military Kids. “Virginia 4-H Congress delegates also donated items for 100 care packages that were sent to soldiers in Iraq.”
According to Jones, these community service projects teach 4-H members empathy for their peers. Currently, the partnership between 4-H and Operation Military Kids exists in all 50 states and has been active in Virginia reaching geographically dispersed military families and those families who reside on army installations.
“The partnership has broadened the understanding and awareness of the 4-H program in the state of Virginia,” says Clyde Jackson, state 4-H military liaison. “Both the National Guard and the Army Reserve youth program coordinators have established relationships with 4-H centers and explored their use for upcoming training and retreats, and both National Guard and Army Reserve families have attended 4-H summer camps.”