Healing For American Kids Touched By War

While the wounded veterans were gathering in Orlando this week for the "Road to Recovery" conference, just down the hall was a separate gathering for another heroic group of wounded Americans - their children.

"I bonded with these people as soon as I came here," one child told CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman, who visited the camp.

"Because we have something in common," another said.

A third child's reaction: "It was nice knowing that there's more than just me."

It was a two-day group-counseling session called Camp Cope.

Every kid there not only sent a parent to war, but had that parent returned to them broken.

Chase Smith's dad got hit by a roadside bomb.

"That's why he's using the cane," Chase said.

P.J. Morris's dad lost one of his eyes - and a bit of his patience.

"Yea, he seems to get angry quicker," P.J. said.

Even Sabrine Karaime, whose mom came back from combat without any physical injuries, still suffers from post-traumatic stress.

"She's a little bit weaker because she used all her bones and everything in the war," Sabrine said.

For most of the kids, this was their first opportunity to truly decompress.

"Their families are in survival mode," said the camp's co-founder Elizabeth Reep. "So they're not always able to get them to the counseling right now because they're trying to get through the day."

Reep and the other volunteer counselors used role-playing games to get the kids to talk about what happened.

At the end, the kids blew all their bad feelings into a balloon.

"And I just popped it and I was like, 'Wow, I feel much better,'" Sabine said.

Another's response: "It felt good."

"All the bad feelings went away," said another child.

It really was a marvelous metaphor.

Unfortunately, making all the reminders vanish into thin air is decidedly more difficult. Which is why the kids and counselors say the most important thing is to focus - not on what the bombs and bullets took away - but what they left behind.

As one kid put it: "They're body has changed but their heart hasn't."

"We still have tickle fights," another girl said.

"Just keep supporting them and keep on loving them," Sabine said.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.