WASHINGTON — Summer camps for military children with deployed parents will open in Germany, Italy and Japan this year, thanks to the program’s success in the United States in 2004.

The Operation Purple summer camps, developed by the National Military Family Association, are designed to help children cope with the absence of a parent serving abroad. Registration for the program begins April 15.

“It’s good for the children to know that other people are going through the same things,” said Michelle Joyner, spokeswoman for the NMFA. “We’ve seen a lot of National Guard kids who have never met another military child before. When they do, they become their own support group.”

In the inaugural camps last year, more than 1,000 children in the United States and Guam participated. This year, the camps will host more than 2,000 children, and have been expanded overseas because of the positive feedback, according to Sandra Hill, project coordinator for the European camps.

“We hope that when youth return home, they return with new friendships, a new circle of support and a strengthened sense of self-esteem and resiliency,” Hill said.

Camps are free of charge, thanks to grants from Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Joyner said this year, additional emphasis has been placed on counseling services to deal with the stress of parental deployment, but traditional summer camp activities like hiking and white-water rafting are still the main attraction.

“It’s all still couched with fun,” she said.

Camps will be held in 18 states and Guam as well as the three new foreign locations. Joyner said families who just recently has a parent return from deployment or have a parent preparing for deployment are also eligible.

NMFA estimates that more than 135,000 children have had a parent deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

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