Operation: Military kids exists because we want to be able to show that community support for children of military families. Kids are doing community service while having fun and it’s to a great cause. This is a way to reach those kids who may never come across our path in any other way. We gained some self-confidence knowing that other people are going through the same thing and that we’re not the only ones. Operation: Military Kids kind of gives both the kids a chance, the kids who aren’t military kids and the kids who are. It helps to educate the individual about what the opportunites, needs, and challenges are that our military families continue to face. It’s very nervewracking because you don’t know what’s going on, when they’re gone. But it’s also something to be very proud of. There is a lot of support out there for military children. They also are able to build friendships and other relationships with other kids who have experienced similar challenges. How do we prepare our families to be the most resilient families? To ensure that their service member and their loved ones are in it for the long haul. Operation: Military Kids or OMK is the U.S. Army’s collaborative effort with America’s communities to support children and youth impacted by military deployment. The Indiana Operation: Military Kids began in 2005. And we have the opportunity to support children of military families in a number of different ways. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the secone time, or multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources, in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being. Community members work together, utilizing core OMK program elements to help children through their loved one’s deployment. There are some core programs that are offered nationwide and those would include things such as Hero Packs, the Mobile Technology Lab, and Speak Out for Military Kids. OMK partners organize special events and participate in the Hero Packs intiative. Extension Home Makers have been involved in creating Hero Packs, putting them together. Making Hero Packs from scratch. Hero Packs serve as a tangible experssion of support for military families from their communities and OMK partners. Hero Packs are filled by non-military youth and community organizations with momentos and items designed to help keep military kids connected with their deployed parent. Doing the Hero Pack project is a great idea. I just participated myself this past Veterans’ Day with an elementary school. A Hero Pack project involves local non-military youth groups and/or community organizations in a a valuable community service effort. It demonstrates thanks and support from their peers in the community. We explain to them where these bags go and what all the materials inside the bags are used for Those kids have so much fun. Speak Out for Military Kids is OMK’s youth-driven community outreach program. Through participation in Speak Out for Military Kids military and non-military youth help raise community awareness of issues faced by military youth when a parent is in the deployment cycle. They showed you what it’s like for kids to go through deployment, and they taught you how to deal with it and help friends, if they’re going through it. And it showed you how to speak out and tell kids it’s okay, everything is fine. This program provides youth participants with the opportunity to gain valuable leadership, research, organization, technology, public speaking, and presentation skills. Youth use these skills to foster activism and supporting military youth in their communities. I just think it’s a really good experience for kids to go to because it really does help you understand how to teach other kids about what you’re going through and what it’s like for the family. The OMK Mobile Technology Lab is a mobile, Internet-ready computer lab for use in a variety of settings. The lab provides access to technology for military youth to communicate with deployed loved ones, learn about technology, enhance educational experiences, or make videos and take pictures to send to deployed loved ones. The Mobile Tech Lab has a video camera that can be used in order to create video messages or the kids can create cards we can send, or it could be a great opportunity for the community to just give blanket cards to the soldiers and tell them they’re supporting them overseas. Military youth use OMK mobile tech lab for creating messages, banners, photos, videos, and even podcasts to share events with their absent parents. Service members have used the mobile tech labs to tape stories and leave videos messages behind for their children. It gives the community a sense that they’re supporting military families and they’re giving back to the military and those troops that are deployed, while at the same time the military families are feeling that support from the community members and they’re also able to stay in contact or give a special message to one of their loved ones and support them. Operation: Military Kids encourages community groups around the state to become involved however they can. And the community is consistently and creatively answering the call. Not only has this been a program for 4-H members and volunteers, but also it has been a program our Extension Home Makers adopted and have continued working on. Our county Extension office had an emphasis on gardening and healthy eating, and the Junior Leaders wanted to be a part of that. So, they thought they would tie in with the OMK program, a Victory Garden that they had this whole theme or taking produce from the garden and giving it back to the miltary families. To find out more about how you and your community can become involved with Operation: Military Kids please visit the OMK website at: www.operationmilitarykids.org and start serving your community, your country, and your nation’s youth right now!