Thursday, April 16, 2009

New program focuses on Oregon's military kids

The Oregon National Guard is launching a new program to help Oregon children of servicemembers deal with their parents’ deployments.

The program, called Homefront Heroes in Oregon (H2O), will bring military kids together to socialize and have fun. The first event is scheduled for Saturday May 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at North Salem High School.

Military kids of all ages and their parents are welcome. Activities will include a rock climbing wall, video games, storytelling, fire demos, arts and crafts, archery, sports games and military and emergency vehicle displays.

Online registration for the event is required, starting April 24. Deadline for registration is midnight, May 14. Follow this LINK to register.

The program is the brainchild of Laura Conley, spouse of Oregon National Guard Command Sergeant Major, Brunk Conley. Mrs. Conley said while her family for the most part coped well with her husband’s deployment, her middle son struggled with the absence of his father. (To read a profile on Oregon National Guard Command Sergeant Major Brunk Conley, go here).

“My middle son was more on his own to deal with the absence of his dad,” she said. “Of course we talked and worked through the issues, but as a teenager going through many changes, and not always wanting to confide in his mother, he had a rough go of it.”

Conley said her middle son is now in college and doing well, but the experience has made her want to help others who face similar situations.

“They don’t wear a sign that says, ‘my dad is in Iraq’ or ‘my mom is in Afghanistan,’” she said. “We want to get these children together and let them see and talk to others of their age who are experiencing the same issues.”

With nearly 3,000 Oregon National Guard soldiers set to deploy to Iraq, there will be more kids with deployed parents than at any time since WWII.

The Homefront Heroes event at North Salem High School in May will be the first of many events planned around the state helping military kids connect with one another.

Several organizations have joined together to make Homefront Heroes possible including Boy Scouts of America, Salem Police and Fire Departments, Salem Public Library, Salem Public Schools, North Salem High School Army JROTC, Oregon State Police, American Red Cross, and the Association of the United States Army.

For directions and a map to the school, go here.

Story by Kim L. Lippert,
Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office

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