MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Telling a small child that their parent is deploying to Afghanistan can be hard, but so can explaining where it is or what the culture is like.
Military Families United holds a Desert Kids program to teach kids about where their parents go on deployments.
“It is to take away the mystery away from the kids,” said Robert Jackson, executive director, Military Families United. “Because kids don’t understand when their parents are being deployed. They don’t understand what it is and where they go. There is a natural curiosity, and there is a natural fear, especially with children.”
The information is presented in a clever way to help them also enjoy what they are learning.
“We march them through a mini-deployment,” Jackson said. “They get their passports. Then they go through the briefing for Afghanistan. They learn some basic phrases in Dari. They learn how far away Afghanistan is from Twentynine Palms. It’s 7,700 miles.
“From there, they ‘go’ to Afghanistan and taste some of the food and tea. Then they vote on their favorite part so they can understand they are not only there to keep the bad guys away, but to help build a democracy,” he said.
“If you were to follow multiple kids through, each kid is going to pick something different that they like the most,” Jackson said. “Most like trying on the clothes and talking with the cultural expert. We have not had one kid that I have talked with that said their favorite part was the pizza.”
While the children enjoyed their time learning about a foreign country, the Marine volunteers had just as much fun teaching.
“It’s cool because when you tell these kids they are going to learn another language, they get all excited,” said Lance Cpl. Chacoi Jorge, heavy equipment mechanic, Combat Logistics Battalion 7.
The Desert Kids program has been to military installations all over the country including at Fort Bragg, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. But the program representative said, so far, the Combat Center has been one of the most impressive installations.
“These folks are excellent,” Jackson said. “Usually we go to a base and they will guarantee us 30, and only 10 show up. There are 38 here today, and they are the ones that make this (event) successful.”