NANCY, Ky. –
Summer camp fun meets military tradition as children of Kentucky’s National Guard (KYNG) attend the week long KYNG Child and Youth Camp at Lake Cumberland 4-H Camp in Nancy, Ky. on July 18-22.
At the camp, kids ages 9-15 meet and relate to kids with similar experiences, learn about basic fundamentals in the military, and are inspired by their mentors.
According to Cindy Culver, lead Child and Youth Coordinator of the KYNG, the children of Guardsmen might be the only military kid at their school.
“Trying to find somebody that has been through what they’ve been through and experienced what they’ve been through, you may not find that within your school,” said Culver.
Because of the KYNG children’s unique life, the bonds made at this camp are even stronger.
“At camp, everybody has their own experiences and some are very similar and they learn from each other,” said Culver. “Like, ‘Hey this is how I feel because my dad just got home’ and ‘Hey I felt the same when my dad came home’ that kind of thing.”’
Due to this combination — military and summer camp — the experience that stands out as something special.
Julia Kromenacker is a second year counselor at 4-H and has been camping every year since she was 9; Kromenacker is 20 now.
“All the camps are great but I like the structure of this week,” said Kromenacker. “I like the new and exciting things that you all bring, like the Black Hawk. Seeing the marching and the cadences, it’s just that extra flair.”
To Kromenacker, the campers of the KYNG Youth Camp are especially noteworthy.
“You can really see the respect from the kids and how they respect their sergeants,” said Kromenacker.
Not only do campers learn about other kids with similar family lives, they learn a little about their parents' lives through basic Army fundamentals.
Basic Army fundamentals such as Army value, cadence, and drill and ceremony are taught at camp by volunteer “platoon sergeants,”— Guardsmen and civilians that mentor the campers.
At camp, the kids grow with each other and look up to their platoon sergeants.
Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Fraley tries to come to camp as a platoon sergeant any chance he gets.
“When they come in they’re shy, they’re bashful,” said Fraley. “They’re a little bit selfish… then here, midway through, you see the kids that don’t win the snacks or don’t win the games, you see the other kids, ‘Hey, have this snack.’ Just being completely selfless and building that team comradery amongst each other.”
Soon, many campers become inspired by their platoon sergeants.
“After day one, you start to see the other kids that haven’t been to camp start instilling those military values into them,” said Fraley. “Day one they’re real shy. By day four and five they’re coming up, ‘Hey what do you do? What do you do? Hey oh, I wanna go in the Army too.’
"You know, you see them try to be more like you."
If you ask a camper at the KYNG Youth Camp how long the friendships they make last, their answer is forever.
“You see what I call ‘camp magic’ happen,” said Culver. “You see them becoming friends within the first hour or so. They’ve already made those bonds.
“Those bonds last through the whole camp and they make sure they stay together.”