Texas National Guard kids make connections at Young Heroes Camp

Story by 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

BROWNWOOD, Texas - A little rain never hurt, and it most certainly did not kill their groove or dampen their moods.

Temporarily packed in a stuffed auditorium, about four dozen kids took a pause from the outdoor activities due to a sudden downpour, but the rain did not discourage them or end their fun. 
Music blasted on the speakers and they all hit the floor, showing off the new moves they’ve learned days before.

They were no longer strangers, but friends who only needed a little bit of music, but primarily just each other to have a good time.

To officially kick off summer, 106 Texas Air and Army National Guard kids swarmed the 78-acre conference and retreat center at Lake Brownwood for the annual, weeklong Young Heroes camp June 9-13, 2014.

Nearing the end of their stay at the camp, the kids were restless and eager to jump into the next activity with their new friends, some coming out of their shells and engaging with each other and camp staff. 

Though organizers packed the weeklong schedule with dancing, singing, hiking, shooting, zip-lining, swimming, and a flood of other activities that included a talent show and color run, the real message was to let parents and kids know that there is a support system available through the Texas Military Forces Family Support Services. 

However, the biggest takeaway is for the kids to form camaraderie among each other and build confidence, said Robert Hankins, the lead child and youth coordinator with TXMF FSS.

“[This is for] kids who have gone through, are going through or will go through a deployment or any military situation,” Hankins said. “[Annual Training] throws a lot of kids off, but here they can share, figure it out, and link together with other kids, and they learn that they’re not alone.”

Campers learned information pertaining to child and youth services available that they can take home to their parents, as well as a better understanding of the word “brat.”

Army brat and Air Force brat are terms often used to describe military dependents; however, Hankins put a twist on the old expression and formed an acronym to mean brave, responsible, adapt/attitude, and tough/terrific/tenacious.

He urged all campers to be proud of their service member and to be brave, responsible, adaptable with a good attitude, tough, terrific and tenacious.

Bailey Wehrman, 11, of Dallas, said she made many friends at the camp.

“It was fun and it’s a good experience,” said Wehrman, whose dad serves in the Air National Guard.

Alysa Touchett, 11, of Pflugerville, and daughter of a Texas Army National Guard member echoed those sentiments, telling participants to just “have fun.” 

For many of the kids, they’ve had very little contact with other Texas National Guard kids and families and have also experienced several mobilizations of their parent or parents.

“We want them to establish camaraderie by breaking the routing and bringing the parents together,” Hankins said. “With Guard kids, there may be another Guard family four blocks down the street and they don’t know.”

The kids ranged in age from about 9-years-old to 13-years-old, who were entering the fourth through the ninth grades. Each attended the camp at no cost thanks to the Army National Guard, the National Guard Association of Texas and the State Family Program.

This camp is not the only program offered by the TXMF Child and Youth program. The program offers events and programs geared toward TXMF children ages six through 18 throughout the year.
“It’s all about serving the kids,” Hankins said.

For more information on TXMF Child and Youth programs, call 512-782-1231 or visit www.facebook.com/TXMFChildAndYouthProgram.