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WA Groups Rally to Help Military Kids

January 9, 2009

Pullman, WA – While Governor Gregoire was in Iraq this week, meeting with some of Washington's 2500 National Guard troops stationed in Iraq, a group here at home has been helping the soldiers' children.

The idea is to fill some big gaps for military families who often struggle, financially and emotionally, when a parent goes to war. Operation Military Kids brings together youth programs in communities around the state to plan activities for children and teens whose parents have been deployed, mostly to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Coordinator Kevin Wright, with Washington State's 4-H program, says they help kids stay in touch with their absent mom or dad - and stay busy.

"We do robotics with our mobile technology labs; babysitter training or home-alone training, so kids are safe when they're at home. We've done holiday parties and, in the summertime, we have quite a few different camps that specifically focus on military kids."

Wright explains they also reach out to teachers, counselors, coaches and other adults, to let them know what military families go through and how to better support those children.

"Look for changes in the kid that are new. If a quiet kid is now very talkative, very active, that might be a sign; or the very active kid is now withdrawn. Changes in behavior really are what adults need to notice; and also, understand that their home situation has changed."

Wright estimates there are 63,000 Washington children with parents serving in the military. Operation Military Kids has branches in 34 states; Washington was one of the first. Information about the programs and upcoming events by state is available online, at www.operationmilitarykids.org - click on "State Information."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA