Military kids bond over grief at summer camp

Military kids bond over grief at summer camp
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A summer camp in Olympia allows kids from military families to tackle deeper subjects than s'mores and bonfires -- they share the bond of grief.

Seven-year-old Susi Salcedo is one of those there whose parent or sibling died while serving.

"I don't feel like I'm the only one who had a parent die," she said.

Camp Erin/TAPS, part of the Moyer Foundation, offers an outlet for children who've lost a loved one in the military. It's a place where traditional camp activities are coupled with grief exercises; a place where Susi feels safe sharing her pain and isn't questioned by classmates.

"They talk about him even though I don't want to," she said. "I like talking to people who lost someone."

People like her military mentor, Christopher Peters whose dad died in Iraq from an explosive device.

"For me to be here for her is a good thing for her and for me," Peters said.

For a few days, these children escape and form friendships and meet military volunteers who do the same.

"I guess if I had a son or a daughter, I would want this for them," camp mentor Shane Kipp said.

Kipp, a U.S. Marine, has flown to camp on his own dime three times to mentor kids.

"You feel like you're part of something greater," he said. "Even though you might just be touching one kid feel like you're making a difference, and they might go on to volunteer and creating a chain."

When these kids lose a loved one, they often feel the loss of their military family as well. Camp mentors help them reconnect and know the military hasn't forgotten them.

The Moyer Foundation has helped create bereavement camps around the country for military families.