Recently, I was asked to be on the advisory board of a local non-profit called Operation 300. I didn’t even have to think about my answer, because I knew it was truly an incredible opportunity to be involved with such an amazing organization.
Operation 300 was created in honor of SOC Aaron Vaughn, who was killed in action on August 6, 2011 when a chopper carrying 30 Americans was shot down in the Tangi River Valley of Afghanistan while rushing into battle. Aaron left behind two small children. His story, life, and legacy inspired the creation of Operation 300.
As the organization’s website states, “We believe that when a member of our Armed Services gives his life in defense of our great nation, the least we can do is pledge to honor that sacrifice by caring for his family.”
Operation 300 hosts adventure camps for children who have lost their fathers as a result of military service. Each child is paired each with a father-aged, male mentor who spends the weekend doing things with the children that they might have done with their dad.
John and I experienced one of the camps firsthand, and what Operation 300 does for the children is nothing less than extraordinary. The first night of camp is special, because the parents, children, and mentors have dinner together. We were honored to serve during the dinner and watch as everyone reconnected since many of the kids have attended the camp before.
Excitement filled the air and smiles were widely spread across every face. After dinner, the Moms headed back to the hotel for a weekend of relaxation while the campers enjoyed playing games, s’mores over the campfire, and just hanging out.
My favorite part of the night was when the kids wrote messages to their dads on lanterns and released them into the evening sky with their mentors. It’s was absolutely beautiful…
The rest of the weekend consisted of fishing, sailing, kickball, archery, shooting, paddle boarding and so much more! A couple of wildlife experts even showed up with a few friends…
Words and photos don’t do justice to everything that goes on at an Operation 300 Camp. There’s no way to really explain how much the mentors truly care about their relationship with the kids or how much the kids cherish their relationship with the mentors. It’s life-transforming, and something that will forever touch the hearts of everyone involved.
One of the boys told me that the greatest part of the camp was seeing his friends and his mentor, because they are his family. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of love or value what it means to a child that has lost so much. It’s priceless.
This particular camp hosted 42 children (and 28 moms), which is the most that they’ve ever had, and all of the other camps for 2019 are already full. They host seven camps per year, and each child can come back once per year.
Operation 300 covers flights and accommodations for the children and their moms plus the expenses incurred with hosting the camp. As you can imagine, this takes lots of donations, team members, and volunteers. I challenge you to get involved with Operation 300. It’s really the least that we can do for the children of men that dedicated their lives protecting our freedom.
Go to www.Operation300.com for more information.
John and I didn’t personally know Aaron Vaughn, but we do have the honor of calling his family our friends – Karen & Billy Vaughn (parents) and Tara Vaughn Baldwin (sister) and her husband, Adam. Thank you all for allowing us to be part of Aaron’s legacy with Operation 300.
Here are just a few additional photos from the weekend…