This past Christmas, while visiting family in my home state of Iowa, I had the opportunity to speak with my aunt, Chris Gleason, about something that is near and dear to her heart; Operation: Military Kids (OMK). She happens to the the Iowa liaison and is able to see, first-hand, the positive effects of this program. We didn't have much time to really discuss OMK right then, but she piqued my interest and I visited their website right away. The following excerpt is from their website:
Operation: Military Kids (OMK) is the U.S. Army's collaborative effort with America's communities to support the children and youth of National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers impacted by the Global War on Terrorism.
The goal of Operation: Military Kids is to support geographically dispersed children and youth of National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers.
What made an impression with me was the idea of supporting geographically dispersed children. The children of deployed National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers are often left feeling alone, with nobody to turn to. Many times they may be the only child in their class, school, even community, who are personally affected by the Global War on Terrorism.
OMK's goal of raising the level of awareness in areas that don't have the advantage of a nearby military installation is a noble one. However, not all states are currently funded. After speaking with Chris recently, she explained to me that every state has a military liaison, but only 34 states actually have grant funds to operate and provide programming. If your state is one of those that are not currently funded and you are interested in OMK's programs, please contact your state liaison and he/she may still be able to help.
Three of the priorities for these state military liaisons are to:
- Provide Programming
Mobile Technology Labs (MTL) are provided to OMK State Teams for use with a variety of programs in support of "Suddenly Military" youth. These labs contain 15 laptops, printers, scanners, laminators, DVD burners, digital cameras and video cameras as well as a variety of software packages.
These labs can be used to support programs such as Speak Out for Military Kids and a variet yof events around the state. An excellent use of the labs is a means for youth to stay connected to their parents during a deployment. A child would be able to video tape a message, burn it to DVD, create a card and package the entire production for mailing.
Other programs that are available include 4-H Curriculum, workshops dedicated to building communication skills, and community service projects.
- Educate the Public
The idea is to educate the public about what military kids face due to deployment. Getting the community involved is the best way to do this; providing workshops in the schools (for counselors and teachers), working with local Rotary Clubs, and general publicity. State liaisons utilize newspapers, TV, and radio whenever they can. Virtually anything to make others aware of how deployments affect families.
- Build Community-based Support Networks
Local schools are a great place to turn to for support. Legion Auxiliaries and veterans' groups are also utilized as much as possible as they are typically dedicated to not only our veterans, but all servicemembers. Finally, these state liaisons often contact area Chambers of Commerce for help in encouraging businesses to offer military discounts as they are seldom found in areas far removed from military installations.
Ultimately, OMK hopes to give all children of National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers an opportunity to connect with others in their situation and to share their experiences and feelings.
The National Partners of Operation: Military Kids are:
- U.S. Army Child and Youth Services (Active & Reserve Components)
- National 4-H Headquarters
- Boys & Girls clubs of America
- Military Child Education Coalition & K-12 Public Schools
- The American Legion and other Veterans Service Organizations
- National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA)
While this list represents the national Partners of OMK, many states have included a variety of additional partners in their State Teams.