Flag ceremonies are a regular part of 4-H camp traditions, but the flag flown this year at Ohio Military Kids (OMK) camp had a special meaning.
Last September, a flag was sent to Ohio Military Kids Project Director Dr. Theresa Ferrari, 4-H Extension Specialist. Accompanying the flag was a certificate indicating the flag “was flown in your [Ohio Military Kids] honor during a combat mission by America’s Leading Task Force with pride, on a Special Operations aircraft over Afghanistan,” as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The certificate was signed by then Senior Airman (now Staff Sergeant) Jacob Michael, who had attended OMK Camp at Kelleys Island for six years, first as a camper and then as a counselor. It was only fitting that the flag flew over camp in August. “It’s awesome to see that I can still be a part of my family at the camp even though I haven’t seen most of them for years,” said Jacob.
When asked about what attending camp meant to him, Jacob noted he first attended when his dad was deployed to Iraq. “The camp showed me something that I had never seen before – that there were other kids that were going through the same thing I was. It's hard to understand exactly what a military kid goes through if you never were one, so meeting hundreds of other military kids that understood exactly what I was going through was a gigantic relief.” The support he received from friends at OMK through the years, including his time as a counselor, and the memories he made “are things that only Camp Kelleys Island could have allowed me to do.”
Jacob, whose father is in the Ohio National Guard, joined the Air Force after high school. He stated that without some of the things he learned from camp programs, he would have struggled more during his dad’s deployments and was better able to help his two younger siblings, as well.
Ferrari noted that during all 15 years of OMK camp, campers, counselors, and parents have all said the connections military kids make with each other are the most enduring aspect of the program. “To receive this flag from Jacob, four years after he last served as a counselor, shows that these connections have a long-lasting impact.”
Ohio Military Kids is grateful for the support from many generous donors, including the Ohio 4-H Foundation. If you would like to support this program you can donate online.