Hero Packs Help Lighten Load for Children in Military Families
Pickels, Mary, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
When Jacob King's father was deployed to Iraq with the National Guard earlier this year, his mother learned about the Hero Packs programs and requested a pack for her son.
"It really helped my son, getting something special," said Kelly King of Latrobe.
Eight-year-old Jacob is one of several children from area military families who have received the backpacks, provided by Operation: Military Kids. Jacob's pack contained numerous activity items, as well as a do-it-yourself calendar.
"He could make it to keep special things in so he would have something to share with his dad," King said. Sgt. Terry King returned home on Sept. 19 after eight months in Iraq.
Operation: Military Kids is the Army's effort to support children of National Guard, Reserve and active-duty families. The program was implemented in Pennsylvania in 2007 and is managed by the Penn State Cooperative Extension.
National partners include 4-H, the Military Child Education Coalition, the American Legion, U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.
The state team includes Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania Child Care Association, Center for Schools and Communities, American Legion Auxiliary, state Department of Education, Pennsylvania Army Reserve and the 911th Airlift Wing, Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station.
In Pennsylvania, the program is funded by the 4-H/Army Youth Development Project, a partnership of Army Child, Youth and School Services and National 4-H Headquarters/USDA.
Members of Westmoreland County 4-H horse clubs Covered Bridge and Horseless Horse Club are among those who deliver packs to local families who request them.
"4-H is one of many organizations helping to distribute these packs," said Kelly Rowe of Greensburg, leader of the Horseless Horse Club.
Members met with Jacob King and other children from military families earlier this year at Sea Base in Greensburg.
"It was a way for kids in their peer range to say, 'You are my hero,'" Rowe said, and to thank the children for their parents' efforts during wartime. …