HARRIS HEROES

Summer camp makes a difference for children of military families

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FRONT ROYAL, Va. (WJLA) - As a military family, Caitlyn and Tristan Valenza struggled at times with finding friends.

Campers at Camp Corral. (WJLA)

Their mother, Cathy, is a disabled veteran. She served in the Air Force for 14 years, and then worked a special-duty assignment in D.C.

"Friends and teachers didn't always understand some of the struggles and issues we had as a military family," Cathy Valenza explained. "I couldn't really talk about where I was going or what I was doing - that was sometimes confusing and scary for them."

As 15-year-old Caitlyn explained, "I had a different childhood experience than other kids did."

But since 2012, Caitlyn and Tristan have found a place where they fit in perfectly - Camp Corral.

It's a week-long summer camp for the children of military service members. Seventy-five percent of the kids who attend have a parent who is wounded, disabled or was killed in action.

The camp has typical activities such as swimming, roping and archery, but there's also a day dedicated to military heroes - and military and family life counselors are available to talk.

"It's recognized that Camp Corral wanted to give back something to the families that serve us," explained program manager Shauna Manovich.

Caitlyn says she was a bit hesitant to come to Camp Corral her first year - now she can't wait for camp, especially because she gets to see her friend Stephanie Chavanne.

"There's no other way I would have met her other than through Camp Corral," she says.

Fifteen-year-old Stephanie couldn't agree more.

"I was shy and she was not shy at all," she recalls. "She's very energetic and she helped me come out of my shell, and we've kept in touch."

Valenza says it's invaluable that her children finally have friends who truly understand what a military life can be like.

"I think it's really neat for them to experience that," she said.

Find out more about Camp Corral online.

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