Matthew damage doesn't stop camp for military children

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Operation Purple was a success, despite damage done by Hurricane Matthew.

Camp Rockfish welcomed a special group of campers as Operation Purple returned to Parkton on Thursday to help encourage military children.

RELATED: Area camp preps for summer, despite Matthew setbacks

Children of active duty military and veterans face many challenges that are tough for other kids to relate to. There are the traditional adjustments: moving to new cities and schools, adapting to new friends and situations. But there is also the drastic change that comes with a parent's military career ending abruptly because of illness or injury. That child now has to cope with a parent managing visible or invisible injuries.

"I can relate to most of the kid with their questions. Why is mom gone and why is dad not here," said Chef James Belton.

Belton has worked at Camp Rockfish for years. As a retired Army sergeant, he enjoys connecting with the youngsters and helping them through their struggles.

Struggles are something Camp Rockfish learned to navigate shortly after Hurricane Matthew damaged some of its facilities. Overcoming adversity is now a lesson it teaches to the young campers.

Thursday, campers were treated to the sounds of the 82nd All American Chorus before participating in a team-building-game tournament.

For 13-year-old Thomas Taylor, it's his favorite part of camp.

"We're running at each other and you like crash like (boom) and grab inner tubes and flags and throws balls and throw Frisbees at each other. You've got to help your teammates out, got to block for them and make sacrifices - just like in the military," Thomas said.

Camp wraps up Friday with a special ceremony. It's a goodbye that's tough for both campers and staff.

"The day they leave is always a bad day," Belton said. "Once you build that bond and relationship like soldiers do, they become battle buddies. And these kids have become our battle buddies."

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