Powell puts spotlight on military families

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2007

The plight of families who have members overseas was promoted byMiss Southwest Mississippi Joy Powell during a presentationWednesday in Brookhaven Academy’s John R. Gray Gymnasium.

Powell, a 2006 graduate of the private school, was rehearsingher platform – military soldiers and their families that are leftbehind – for the Miss Mississippi pageant in July to the firstthrough sixth grade students.

“Those left behind refers to the wives and children of soldiersdeployed overseas,” she said. “The family members are alsosuffering while the soldiers are overseas fighting.”

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Powell, 19, said she can speak firsthand about the difficultiesfaced by families separated by military deployment. Her father Ken,an Army colonel, deployed twice in her lifetime.

She was 3 years old the first time.

“I remember on special occasions my daddy wasn’t there with usand wondering why he wasn’t there,” Powell said. “I also remembermy mother crying through worry and fear.”

It became more personal during his second deployment three yearsago when she was a freshman at BA, she said.

“I knew exactly the dangers he would be in,” Powell said. “Imissed and worried over my daddy every day. He’s always been therefor everything and I remember him not being there during that time.He missed basketball games and cheerleading events he never wouldhave.”

Today, she said, many more children and other family members aresuffering from that same sense of loss with soldiers deployedacross the globe, she said.

That awareness led her to undertake military families as herplatform to pursue the Miss Mississippi crown. Powell hopes toraise funds for organizations that help families cope with theemotional and economic difficulties that accompany a soldier’sdeployment.

In particular, Powell said, she is raising funds for OperationPurple Camp. The summer camp is free for all military familymembers, but is generally attended by children.

In addition to fun events such as horseback riding and camping,the camp also offers counselors to help family members cope withthe emotional aspects of separation.

Powell reminded students that they should appreciate theirparents being home and taking care of them.

“Thank your mommy and daddy for what they do for you every day.I know I do,” she said.

Following her presentation, students swamped the desk wherePowell was signing pictures and selling necklaces to support hercampaign. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the necklaceswill to go Operation Purple Camp, she said.