Strengthening Our Military Family is not just a tagline. It means something real and tangible. It means strengthening the entire family unit, including the service member, spouse or partner and their children.
One of the ways the Armed Services YMCA helps to strengthen military children is through Operation Hero. Thanks to our generous supporter 7-Eleven Foundation, we are able to provide Operation Hero at four Armed Services Branches across the country.
Operation Hero is a no-cost after-school program for grades 2-8. It's designed to help students address the unique challenges they face, such as frequent moves and parent deployments. Trained facilitators create a safe environment for students to express emotions, receive academic and social support, and connect with peers experiencing the same challenges. Students in the 10-week program work together and as a group to learn skills to cope with change, make new friends and navigate military life.
Operation Hero can be offered at elementary and middle schools on and off installations. Participants are referred by teachers, parents, or school officials who recognize that a military student may be struggling socially or academically.
Survey responses have shown:
- 91% of parents said their child demonstrated good problem-solving skills;
- 92% indicated that their child demonstrated good relationship skills with family, friends, and/or classmates;
- and 94% agreed or strongly agreed that their child demonstrated good behavior and coping skills as a direct result of the program.
One parent said, "Operation Hero has changed my son's life in such a short period of time. Being a part of Operation Hero has been a wonderful experience.”
Each week, Operation Hero focuses on a different topic, reinforced through interactive methods such as art, creative writing and teamwork. The children earn a dog tag featuring the eight topics and achieve a full set to keep:
- Honesty and Integrity
- Feelings and Caring
- Deployments and Family Separations
- Problem Solving and Teamwork
- Bully Prevention
The children enrolled in Operation Hero not only develop connections among their peers, they also learn about themselves.
"You learn lots of stuff about being a military kid and deployments,” an Operation Hero graduate said. “Not only are our parents heroes, but WE ARE HEROES because we help with chores, our brothers and sisters and we are there for our parent.”