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HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- It's not easy for children to understand what's going on when a parent heads off to war. Airmen at Hill Air Force Base Thursday tried to make that process less frightening and more fun.
It's a heart-wrenching experience for a child when mom or dad deploys for Afghanistan or Iraq. Team Hill took 600 kids through a mock deployment processing. It was plenty of fun for the kids from Hill Field Elementary School, but also a good education.
The parents of many of the children fight for our country and have been deployed before.
Kindergartner Lexi Whitney says her dad works at Hill Air Force Base and flies the planes.
"He kind of like went somewhere that stays warm forever," she says.
So, on Kids' Deployment Day, students from Hill Field Elementary School got a closer look at a Thunderbird F-16. They also boarded a C-130 transport aircraft.
Jay Evans was beaming after seeing the F-16. "It's very exciting," he said.
It's the Month of the Military Child, and Team Hill knows the rapid deployments for parents put a lot of stress on the children. The idea Thursday was to relieve some of that anxiety.
"[This] allows them to experience the preparation and things that it takes their parents to do to get over to a deployed location and defend our country," says Tech. Sgt. Terri Davis with the Airman and Family Readiness Center.
The students got their own dog tags, went through a deployment checklist and tried on chemical masks. The young airmen also saw a military dog at work.
Hill deploys nearly 200 airmen each month for missions around the world.
One youngster was glad to see what both of his parents do every day.
"They always do it, so you've never done it, and they're grown-ups, but you're a kid," says Hunter Morris. "I bet they didn't try it when they were a kid."
The airmen prepare for months for mock deployment day and enjoy the chance to interact with such an eager and appreciative audience.
"This gives them an opportunity to not only be proud of the job they do in the military, but be able to share that with the kids," says Davis.