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Veterans Day is Friday, and UT Knoxville wants to thank the more than 629 faculty, staff and students who are active duty U.S. military, veterans, reservists or members of the National Guard.

KNOXVILLE— When Shelby Summarell heard that the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was involved in Operation: Military Kids (OMK), she knew she wanted to volunteer.

Operation: Military Kids
Trained volunteers taught children involved in Operation: Military Kids about guns and helped them shoot targets with rifles and shotguns at a recent day camp at the John Sevier Hunter Education Center in North Knox County.

OMK is a program that provides social, educational, and recreational programming for youth of deployed military personnel. It is a national program administered locally by UT Extension through the 4-H Youth Development program with the help of community involvement.

Having a dad who took two tours of Kuwait with the Army National Guard, Summarell, a freshman in agricultural education from Viola, Tennessee, knows how difficult it can be when parents and children are separated by war.

Her father was part of the 1175th Army National Guard in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and took a tour of Kuwait during her eighth- and ninth-grade years, a difficult time to have a father absent. A further testament to how complicated a military lifestyle can be, her father transferred to the 1171st in Tiptonville, Tennessee, so that his next tour would be soon, during her junior and senior years of high school, in order to be back in time for her graduation.

Operation: Military Kids“I know it’s hard having a parent gone, especially if you have divorced parents. It’s difficult not knowing the next time you will talk to your parent,” Summarell said, explaining how OMK can help kids cope by letting them know there are other kids going through the same ordeal.

Recently, OMK held a shooting day camp for military youth hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency at John Sevier Hunter Education Center in Knox County. Kids from elementary to high school showed up to learn how to shoot shotguns, rifles, and arrows and to learn how to identify plants and animal tracks.

The next OMK events are a lock-in at Tyson McGhee Airbase November 18−19 and “Santa’s Workshop,” a Christmas party on December 3.

Nationally, OMK has worked with more than 88,000 children since it began in 2005. Tennessee 4-H partnered with this organization in 2008, reaching 4,013 youths last year.

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C O N T A C T :

Stephanie Dixon (865-974-2125,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,