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ARLINGTON, Va. — Children who have a parent or guardian who is deployed or on lengthy military travel can once again spend a week at camp this summer for free.

For the fifth year, the National Military Family Association has opened registration for its Operation Purple Camp Experience. The camps will be held in 36 states and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.

The weeklong camps offer boating, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and other outdoor activities. Campers also learn ways to help cope with their parent’s deployment, and have the comfort of being with other children who face the same circumstances.

Registration opened Monday and ends May 5. The dates of each camp and the ages of the children they are geared to vary by state. Kids can attend only one Operation Purple camp session per year. Parents will be notified by May 12 whether their child has been accepted at a particular camp.

Priority for camp spaces goes to children who have a parent, guardian or family household member who was or is deployed between May 2007 and November 2008.

The association defines deployment loosely, and includes in it servicemembers who are on temporary duty orders or any travel that takes them away from family “for significant periods of time.”

Once all the priority children have places, leftover camp slots are distributed to kids with a parent serving in one of the military branches, the National Guard or reserve components, the Public Health Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For information and registration, go to the NMFA Web site at: www.nmfa.org, or e-mail operationpurple@nmfa.org

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