There are a wide range of emotions that happen after a service member returns home from deployment. Reunions are filled with excitement and joy that overwhelms the house, leaving a ‘honeymoon feeling’ that can last for days, weeks, even months.
But after the excitement settles, reintegration starts. This can be a long hard journey; it’s like the best road trip you ever took with your family. In the beginning, everyone’s excited, but two hours in things get rough and everyone keeps asking Mom, “Are we there yet?” Dad is telling everyone to settle down, kids are pouting in the backseat, and before you know it, this once fun road trip looks like an upset, stressed out family that needs a rest stop.
Operation Purple Family Retreats® at Teton Science Schools is that rest stop. Families drive from all over the country to reunite and reconnect at this family retreat. The best part is that families get to come together in the Grand National Teton Park doing activities they have never done before, seeing sites together for the first time, and enjoying time with one another in a place where they can stretch out and be a family after a long journey. They make new friends with other families, just like them, and get to celebrate what makes being a military family so special.
With amazing views that house beautiful wildlife and mountain ranges, our Operation Purple families build bonds with other families going through the same stressors of being a military family. These families all understand what it’s like to be military service member, a military spouse, and a military kid.
At Operation Purple Family Retreats in the Tetons, military families will go on hikes through the Tetons, sit in a raft and float down a river seeing beavers, eagles, and sometimes a moose (if you’re lucky)! In the winter, families go cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, and will get one-on-one attention from trained outdoor educators. All while learning resiliency skills from trained licensed professionals.
The best part of Operation Purple Family Retreats at Teton Science Schools is the bond and recharge the families have at the end of camp. It’s a week-long retreat, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a rest stop on their reintegration road trip. Operation Purple Family Retreats can be any military family’s break to stretch out, relax, and get everyone excited for the road ahead.
The National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple Program brings families from all uniformed services to beautiful outdoor locations to spend quality time reconnecting after a deployment. With other military families there to share the experience, it’s the perfect environment to meet and bond with others who know what military life is like.
Here is the Elias Family’s story:
“After two cross-country moves within twelve months, our family was tired and our three children, who all fall on the autism spectrum, were struggling to make friends at school because their peers couldn’t understand the unique challenges they face as military children. Operation Purple camp gave our children a chance to connect with other military children as well as a chance for our family to renew our bond to one another.
Frequent deployments and trainings has kept my husband physically separated from us for half of our marraige. We work hard to stay close, but the distance puts a strain on our family. Attending an Operation Purple Family Retreat gave our family the chance to reconnect away from electronics.
We are forever grateful to Operation Purple for giving us the opportunity to re-strengthen our family bond and build our children's coping and resiliency skills. The summer camp gave our children a chance to learn about the experiences of other children of military service members as well as connect with nature. The family retreat provided the opportunity to renew our family commitment and spend time with each other away from everyday distractions. I wish every military family could have the opportunity to experience the benefits of Operation Purple camps.
We are forever grateful to the NMFA and its supporters for giving us this opportunity."
Thank you for all that you do in support of military families!
The Operation Purple Family Retreat (OPFR) held in New Castle, VA at Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing (WAEL) hosted 10 military families. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, the families who attended were able to enjoy a wide variety of activities. Founded in 1990 by retired Marine Colonel Gene Nervo and his family, Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing began as a backpacking camp for ages 8-18. Over the past 25 years, the program has grown and is now a year round conference, adventure, and retreat center in addition to a Summer Adventure Camp!
OPFRs were specifically developed in response to an ever-increasing need for reintegration and reunion support for families dealing with the challenges of multiple deployments, family separation, and return from combat zones. The goals of the OPFRs are to:
You can hear all about it from the families themselves...
• “We will remember this adventure forever.”
• “We were reminded each member of our family has an important role. We are stronger when we work together. Recognizing accomplishments and verbalizing encouragement has a big impact.”
• “We are thankful for the opportunity. This program provided concentrated family time, free from worries of planning and organization. Our focus all week has been on each other. The efforts made by the staff to take care of us, encourage us and to remind us each member of our family is a blessing and we should be intentional in our efforts to encourage, praise, and express gratitude was a much needed reminder and an amazing experience.”
• “Thank you very very much for this opportunity and all of the resources and efforts that were put into this. I could not be more grateful!”
• “We really appreciate the chance to connect with other military families and reconnect with our own family. We can never thank you enough for the gift of time with our kids.”
• “This was a life changing event for our family. I’m grateful for this experience!”
• “Thank you so much for this opportunity! There was so many firsts for our family! First long road trip, first real hiking experience as a family, first time to this region of the country, first canoe trip for the children. So many great memories.”
Thank you for believing in NMFA and for easing the burden on our nation’s families. We couldn’t do it without you and your continued generosity.
Operation Purple Healing Adventures celebrates rediscovering family-fun and togetherness after an injury. This FREE three-day experience combines family-focused activities with outdoor exploration, like hiking and canoeing to encourage each family’s growth on their new journey post-injury. Our Association welcomes wounded, ill, injured, medically separated, or medically retired military families to reconnect at Healing Adventures. Using specially adapted communication activities developed by FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress™), Healing Adventures ensures your family returns home strong and resilient.
August 2016 will find us in San Antonio, Texas. YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow, San Antonio's resident camp, is located along the banks of the Guadalupe River in Hunt, TX about 80 miles west of San Antonio. We are proud to state that our activities are centered on the character values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility and Faith. At these Healing Adventures, values are acquired, relationships built, and new exciting skills learned. From the moment campers arrive they are welcomed, appreciated, and cherished. All camp activities are designed to build self-esteem, promote cooperation and model healthy relationships.
“We were actually sad to go back home to the real world. This past year has been tough for us. You guys have made it a little easier by giving us that break. So again, from the bottom of our hearts, a big thank you to all of you for everything you do!” -Military Spouse
Happy 2016 from the National Military Family Association!
Thank you for standing by NMFA, and our nation’s war-weary military families in 2015. Deployments stretched these families thin and left them feeling vulnerable. Some dealt with injuries and mental health issues. Others looked for opportunities to improve the well-being of their families and meet the challenges of military life.
One way that you supportyed military families was through Rockfish Camp and Retreat Center in Parkton, NC. Nestled on 486 acres in the Sandhills region of North Carolina, Camp Rockfish is an ideal place for military families to have a great outdoor experience.
Camp Rockfish created activities that were appropriate for all ages and allowed families to all find joy in participating in them together. Operation Purple believes that being outdoors provides a healing impact on the individual. Operation Purple Healing Adventures are designed to help families reconnect through program elements that include therapeutic recreational activities and parent groups designed to teach the service member and spouse tools to de-stress in everyday situations. By being outside and unplugged, families can start to relax and focus on learning, playing, and working together to create stronger family ties. During the weekend families participated in a number of these types of activities. Some of the most popular teambuilding and challenge activities included the high ropes course and the zip line which allowed families to work together and build communication skills. The zip line was an excellent team building activity because participants had to help each other climb a wall before flying down the zip line. This allowed for parents to encourage their children and children to cheer on their parents as they both made their way up the wall and down the zip line.
Families were especially grateful for the $200.00 travel stipend and some stated they would not be able to attend without the additional assistance in travel. One of our OPHA families were in tears when they received their stipend and they told us that they have never received such appreciation from a military organization. This retreat was extra special as all 8 military families had never attended an Operation Purple Healing Adventures before.
Families were given opportunities to participate in hiking, archery, team building activities, canoeing, and fishing. We were also fortunate to have the support of two Military Family Life Counselors (MFLC) and two FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) clinicians. The MFLC’s were available throughout the weekend to provide support for families who just needed to talk and discuss stressors. Clinicians from FOCUS were also available for the duration of the retreat and led families in a series of activities designed to help them cope with stress, develop communication skills, and build resiliency through parent groups and family activities.
Camp Rockfish was an ideal location for families to gather, unplug, and reconnect without the stressors of everyday life. While we know that 4 days will not fully heal a family, we believe we can provide them with tools they can use to continue to build on their relationships and continue to heal.
Examples of the benefits families received are in the quotes from families below:
“This retreat was wonderful and it was great to spend time with the kids and connect. I wish every family could do this! “-Service member
“This retreat is family changing for us. We had a great time. Experiences from other families help me realize we are not alone. I have felt alone for a while now. Thank you so much!!” – Military mom
“We had a wonderful time. Thank you sooo much! It was a priceless weekend for me as I didn’t have to plan activities, cook, clean, etc. which allowed me to have quality time with my family. Also, everyone was so nice- including all the camp staff. YOU ARE ALL APPRECIATED! – Military mom
Spouses and caregivers are able to connect with others and share their unique but similar journeys. Service members are able to meet other service members who are going through the same struggles as each other and can share ways to cope and heal. Military children get to meet other kids who know what it’s like to be a military family. They get to relax and build memories with their parents they otherwise would not have been able to do. Families participate in activities for the first time with one another and get a break from the stressors of everyday life. We could not do this work without valued partners like you and want you to know how very thankful we are that you support us in our mission.
At NMFA, military families are our priority. Your generous donation will help us respond to their needs and let them know how much our nation appreciates their sacrifices. Thank you for joining with us to strengthen the families we serve. We look forward to a great 2016!
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