NORWOOD, La. – Members of our military are often referred to as “one percenters” because they constitute only about one percent of our nation’s population. This makes their children pretty unique as well.
The La. National Guard’s Office of Family Programs held its Youth Leadership Camp for 27 dependents of LANG Guardsmen, ages 14-17, at the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, La., June 21-24.
For nine years now, the Louisiana National Guard has sponsored Youth Leadership Camp for the older children of its military members. The purpose of the camp is to get military youth together in an environment that enables them to share their common experiences, strengthen their resilience and develop their leadership skills.
“This is an annual event that we do where we put children – military dependents of our Louisiana National Guardsmen – in a position where they can demonstrate leadership, initiative and also be challenged,” said Maj. William Saint, State Family Program Director for LANG
One repeat camper, DiNardo, 14, from Metairie, La., believes that the encouragement he receives from the camp counselors is what brings him back year after year.
“The people are what I like. The counselors are active, fun and they support you,” said DiNardo.
A fellow repeat camper, Janee, 15, from Ball, La., felt that “learning to respect yourself … to quit putting yourself down” was what she’s gained the most from her camp experiences.
Janee also said that some of the activities that the campers participate in are the same kind of things their Guard mothers and fathers are sometimes called to do, though “in a fun kind of way,” she added.
Many of these youth have seen their mothers or fathers deploy at least once to the battlefield, and all have likely seen their parents pack for state emergency missions. Saint stressed that supporting and maintaining personnel readiness is the principle military goal for all the child and youth programs.
He explained that personnel readiness means that Guardsmen have to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to respond any mission whether they’re state emergency operations or federal deployments.
“Our Soldiers have to be ready at all times, and there’s no better way that we can strengthen their ability to be ready for missions than when we prepare their families. Their military dependents are probably their number one concern when they’re away from home for state emergencies or federal deployments, so this is a method that we can use to try to bolster their [their children’s’] resilience … give them some real strength and skills that they can use in their lives,” Saint said.
Youth Leadership Camp and Kids’ AT (for younger campers) are key Child and Youth Program initiatives directed by the LANG’s Office of Family Programs, in support of the personnel readiness mission of the Reintegration Office. The mission of the Child and Youth Program is to provide our Guard children, youth and families the support they need, when they need it. They offer youth an opportunity to interact with their peers in a safe and fun environment and provide access to resources specifically geared to meet the needs and challenges of Guard life.