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mcoy17-web_fbpost_640x640-semi-finalistsHere at Operation Homefront, the New Year doesn’t just bring with it the anticipation of all the ways we will serve our military families but also the excitement of Military Child of the Year award season! And it begins in earnest today with the announcing of our semifinalists for the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award and the semifinalists for the second annual Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

This year’s semifinalists range in age from 8-18 and represent 37 states and Puerto Rico, with one nominee from overseas.

Without further ado, here are our semifinalists by branch of service (You can find a list by state here)

AIR FORCE

Anthony Beasley, 18, Hurlburt Field, FL.

Jamal Braxton, 18, Hill AFB, UT.

Katherine Dever, 17, Kathleen, GA.

Marianna Galvin, 17, Henderson, NV.

Linda Goodson, 17, Triangle, VA.

Gavin Hetzler, 17, Edmond, OK.

Sharlee Krkosa, 17, Schertz, TX.

Trevette Kuester, 17, Huntington, MD.

Kylee McClure, 18, Monroe, UT.

Erin McLeod, 17,  Anchorage, AK.

Jordyn McNeal, 10, Trussville, AL.

Benjamin Rawald, 14, Del Rio, TX.

Edward Salvador, 16, Niceville, FL.

Caroline Stanton, 11, Las Vegas, NV.

Erica Thompson, 18, Colorado Springs, CO.

ARMY

Darrius Anderson, 17, Mansfield, TX.

Alec Argueta, 17, El Paso, TX.

Andrea Gamble, 17, Kaiserlauten, GER

Hayley Hamblin, 18, Florissant, CO.

Henderson Heussner, 18, Fort Myers, FL.

Hunter Hotaling, 15, Lansing, KS.

Timothy Hunt, 17,  Burke, VA.

Mackenzie Miller, 17, Peachtree City, GA.

Elissa Nott, 17, Onalaska, WI.

Jediah Persaud, 16, Appling, GA.

Grace Pleinis, 9, Tampa, FL.

Thomas Rizza, 11, Bradenton, FL.

Cohen Russell, 10, Fort Meade, MD.

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL.

Madeline Turpin, 17, Wahiawa, HI.

COAST GUARD

Mary Kate Cooper, 17, Fairfax, VA.

Kaili Cutler, 8, Daphne, AL.

Tyler Evans, 14, Maple Valley, WA.

Janelle Gehrke, 15, Saint Joseph, MI.

William Kuebler, 12, League City, TX.

Charlie McGuire, 12, Trenton, NJ.

Kylie McGuire, 15, Trenton, NJ.

Gabriel Niles, 14, Bennington, VT.

Jessie Porter, 17, Bayamon, PR.

Ashlynn Ruleman, 16, Waterford, CT

Alyssa Santos, 17, Tarpon Springs, FL.

Joseph Schmid, 8, Marshfield, MA.

Kira Walters, 14, Yorktown, VA.

Cody Watson, 16, Tuttle, OK.

Rachel Winburn, 17, Ketchikan, AK.

MARINE CORPS

Viktoria Alston, 17, Havelock, NC.

Jackson Beatty, 17, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Carson Butler, 18, Virginia Beach, VA.

Kindrah Carney, 16, Pearl City, HI.

Alejandro Cook-Hernandez, 17, Havelock, NC.

Da’Rod Crutchfield, 18, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Jocelyn Figueora-Urquidi, 13, Beaufort, SC.

Joshua Frawley, 13, Jacksonville, NC.

McKenzie Galloway, 17, Stafford, VA.

Brooke Gruber, 17, Jacksonville, NC.

Sierra LeFlore, 17, San Marcos, CA.

Jennifer Narvaez, 16, Hubert, NC.

Cody Phillips, 17, Quantico, VA.

Thomas Russ, 17, Stafford, VA.

Neorah Wells, 9, Charlotte, NC.

NAVY

Alexis Bryant, 17, Virginia Beach, VA.

Olivia Burch, 18, Grand Forks, ND.

Chace Cleckley, 17, Fallon, NV.

Caleb Harding, 16, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Sierra K., 17, Middletown, RI.

Britton Laing, 18, Silverdale, WA.

Akaiah Lovell, 15, Port Orchard, WA.

Alexander McGrath, 17, Severna Park, MD.

Aiden OLeary, 17, Fredricksburg, VA.

Evan Pittman, 18, Phoenix, AZ.

Isabelle Richards, 12, Jamul, CA.

Kathryn Schorr, 17, Darien, CT.

Alexander Sucato, 16, Belle Chasse, LA.

Ethan Vicario, 17, Virginia Beach, VA.

Reagan Warrick, 12, El Cajon, CA.

NATIONAL GUARD 

Connor Ascherl, 18, Granville, IA.

Amelia Bailey, 16, Saint Augustine, FL.

Trevor Bartunek, 17, Rapid City, SD.

Sheryl Evans, 17, Callahan, FL.

Molly Frey, 16, Pickerington, OH.

John Kargel, 15, Isle, MN.

Zaniya Lewis, 18, Edgewater Park, NJ.

Sydney Long, 17, Lincoln, NE.

Isabelle Miller, 16, Spokane, WA.

Lily Moser, 15, Portland, OR.

Eleanor Rager, 17, Douglasville, GA.

Kara Smith, 17, Munford, TN.

Alexander Steinmetz, 16, Cottage Grove, MN.

Joshua Traxel, 16, Rolla, MO.

Alysha Worden, 17, Martinez, GA.

Semifinalists for 2017 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation Presented by Booz Allen Hamilton

BreAsia Austin, 17, Dallas, TX, National Guard

Kamille Banks, 17, Lodi, NJ, Coast Guard

Sophie Bernstein, 16, St. Louis, MO, Navy

Elizabeth Brouse, 17, Merchantville, NJ, Army

Marianne Dunaway, 17, Madison, AL, Army

Gabriel Feinn, 16, Louisville, KY, Navy

Kianna Flowers, 17, Gambrills, MD, Air Force

Noah Freye, 17, Chesapeake, VA, Navy

Kennedy Knight, 17, Charlotte, NC, National Guard

Maura Knutsen, 17, Centerville, UT, Army

Jason Lee, 17, Pacheco, CA, Army

Jennifer Molton, 16, Lucas, OH, National Guard

Lily Moser, 15, Portland, OR, Army

Krystalin Neary, 17, St. Peter, MN, National Guard

Caitlyn Schoon, 17, Belle Plaine, MN, Army

Samantha Shaffer, 18, Greenwood, IN, Army

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL, Army

Mikaela Smith, 17, Las Vegas, NV, Air Force

Trinity Torgerson, 17, Colorado Springs, CO, National Guard

Cierra Williams-Carter, 17, Virginia Beach, VA, Navy

So now that we have our semifinalists, what’s next?

Each semifinalist for the military branch awards will be interviewed by a team selected by Operation Homefront staff. Award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges, to include senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s board of directors, and other leaders in the military support community.  Booz Allen Hamilton will judge competitors for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation.

The top 5 finalists from each branch will be announced in February.  Winners will be announced in March and then on to the big gala in Washington, D.C. on April 06, 2017.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Military Child of the Year Award and read about our past recipients at www.militarychildoftheyear.org and get inspired by pictures from last year’s festivities here.

Congratulations to all of our Military Child of the Year semi-finalists! Great job!

Whether you have been with us on our journey for a while or are new to discover us, we’d like to look at some of our favorite moments. Thanks to your support, we continue to help build strong, stable and secure military families, and help them not just survive, but thrive in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Thanks to you…

eoyblog500thhome 1. We continued to make dreams come true.

2016 started off with the celebration of the awarding of our 500th home through our Homes on the Homefront program, and continued with the awarding of 83 mortgage-free homes to veteran families. On average, Operation Homefront awards between 80-100 homes each year thanks to the support of our partners. As those families complete a two-year program, they earn the deed to their home – 120 families completed that process this year.

 

2. We were able to stand with and help military families get through tough times.

This year, we provided more than $3.4 million in emergency assistance grants to over 2,100 families who hit a bump in the road and needed help with rent or mortgage payments, major home or car repairs, utility bills or buying food for their families. Since inception, we have provided nearly 20 million dollars in financial assistance to military families.

In 2016, 89.4% of military family clients agreed or strongly agreed that our Emergency Assistance Program made them feel strong, stable, and secure.

 

3. We offered families coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war support and hope.

Our Hearts of Valor program, which provides support to caregivers of wounded veterans, has grown to more than 3,200 participants, giving them vital connections to others who understand their unique challenges. We were also able to host more than 80 at several retreats throughout the year, where these quiet heroes were able to rest and rejuvenate while connecting with other caregivers and resources.

 

4. We offered security and a place to heal.

Transition from service continues to be a significant challenge for our post 9/11 veterans. More than 80 percent of the families assisted through our emergency assistance program were those with a wounded service member. In 2016, Operation Homefront placed 380 transitioning veterans and family members in one of our rent-free, transitional Operation Homefront Villages, providing critical security and time for our veterans to heal and focus on their futures.

eoyblogvillagesThey join nearly 1700 veterans and family members that have found solace at our Villages since the program was founded, and we have helped defray nearly 4.7 million in rent and housing costs for these families, allowing them to save and focus on moving forward.

 

5. We brought attention to the contributions and strength of the military child.

The start of a New Year will bring with it the Military Child of the Year Award season. Once again, in 2016, we honored 7 extraordinary military children from across all branches of service, as well as awarding the inaugural Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation. Soon, we will announce the semi-finalists for the 2017 Military Child of the Year Award and Innovation award, and we could not be more excited to spotlight more incredible military children for the 9th year in a row at our April gala in Washington DC.

 

6. We helped military children with the supplies they needed to kick off a successful school year.

eoyblogbtsbMilitary children make many moves over the course of their lives, and starting a new school year in a new place can be a challenge. One of our favorite times of the year is our annual Back-To-School Brigade campaign in the summer. We are not only able to provide school supplies, but get a chance to welcome these families to our communities and make them feel at home. In 2016, we once again provided more than 31,000 military kids with backpacks filled with school supplies, and since the program began in 2008, Operation Homefront has provided well over a quarter-million backpacks to children in military families.

 

7. We honored the role of the military spouse.

More than 600 spouses enjoyed nights of relaxation and fun at our Homefront Celebrations, like this one just outside Fort Hood. It’s a chance for them to build a stronger peer support network and make new friends.

 

8. We welcomed new members to the (military) family.

We were honored to help welcome new bundles of joy for over 400 military moms in 2016 at our Star-Spangled Babies baby showers. These celebrations provide new parents early childhood tips and a support system when they are far away from home and family.

 

eoyblogcarrie9. We helped create memories that will last a lifetime.

We were able to help military families make precious memories together and celebrate Honor.Family.Fun by hosting military families at Carrie Underwood concerts across the country throughout 2016, culminating in a special concert and night aboard the newest Carnival vessel, the VISTA.

 

 

10. We made the holidays a little brighter for our military families.

In 2016, more than 1,000 children received toys at Holiday Toy Drive events, with many thousands more being served through our work eoyblogbikesbaewith commands, family readiness groups and other community organizations. 11,000 families received everything they needed for a spectacular holiday meal this year thanks to our Holiday Meals for Military events. In total, we have served over 175,000 military children and 57,000 family meals since we began our holiday programs in 2008.

 

What’s next?

We know there is still more work to be done.  In January, there will be more applications for assistance. Whether it is help paying an electric bill, fixing the family car or being able to put food on the table – military families need and deserve our support.   Your commitment will be crucial

Every day, across America, Operation Homefront employees, volunteers and supporters are serving America’s military families who have given  so much for our nation. Our troops and their families are counting on us.

Thank you for all that you’ve done to support our military families. We hope you join us as serve even more military families in 2017!

 

A Season of Giving.

ertIn the weeks before Christmas, throughout this great land.

Our elves on the homefront were lending a hand…

elvescheyenne

Holiday Meals were bagged up and stuffed

To give to the families we can’t thank enough…

mealscheyenne

thirtyonebags

Wishes were granted and moments were shared

Letting military families know that all of us cared…

santaandkids

wishestosanta

The smiles of the families and joy that abounded

Reminded us all of the mission we founded…

familysilverdale

familysanantonio

To remember the many who serve so we remain free

Who won’t be home this year to decorate their tree…

whitehousetree

The East Garden Room of the White House features an American flag display formed from images of brave military members and their families, and Gold Star ornaments adorn the evergreen that honors the men and women who have laid down their lives for our country.

We hope you are home soon and with loved ones so dear,

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

thankyounotes

Thank you for helping Operation Homefront build strong, stable, and secure military families – all year long.

————————————————————————————————————————

Special thanks this year to…

Walmart, Dollar Tree, Beam Suntory, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, HEB, SAS Shoemakers, Thirty-One, Procter & Gamble, Ocean Spray, Navy Federal Credit Union, Samuel Adams , Veterans United and many more local supporters who helps us serve over 11000 military families with meals and toys this holiday season.

Our volunteers who gave us the priceless gift of time.

And finally, to our military far away from home… our most heartfelt thanks for keeping us safe. We miss you and pray for your safe return. 

Find these and many more terrific pictures from our Holiday Events on our Flickr page. If you would like to know more about #GivingStrength to military families, visit www.operationhomefront.net/givingstrength

 

cvsinthecommunityblog1Starting a family is one of the most exciting and challenging times of a person’s life. Due to deployments and frequent relocation, military parents-to-be often live far from their extended families and support systems. The Star-Spangled Babies program provides baby showers to expecting service members and their growing families, giving these new and expecting parents tips on early childhood education and a support system when loved ones are far away.

Operation Homefront depends on our corporate partners to make what we do possible, and CVS has been an especially important partner for our Star-Spangled Babies program. We recently got the chance to talk with Eileen Boone, the senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy at CVS, and hear her thoughts on why it is important to support Operation Homefront and the military community.

Where does supporting the military community fall in CVS Health’s values as a company? Do you have many veterans employed by CVS or do you have certain military connections?

With millions of service members transitioning out of the military over the next few years, we’re committed to hiring veterans, current National Guard and Reserve members and military spouses across all parts of our business. We have approximately 150 stores that are within 20 miles of a military base, so it is important to us that our colleagues represent the communities that we serve. We’re also committed to supporting and hiring military spouses, which helps veterans better understand what opportunities are available to them when they leave the service.

At CVS Health, we have a long history of providing charitable support to a range of veteran-focused initiatives, including the National Guard, Fisher House, the USO and now, Operation Homefront. We’re also proud to offer a colleague resource group—called Valor—within CVS Health, which has nearly 500 active and retired military CVS colleagues.

What are some of the best ways to support the military? How can we give strength to military families?

cvsinthecommunityblog4Due to deployments and frequent relocation, we know that military families often live far from their extended families. This is especially hard for new and expecting parents and why CVS Health is proud to be the National Sponsor of the Star-Spangled Babies program that provides baby showers to service members and their growing families. Like many new parents, they have questions, concerns, and fears. Our partnership with Operation Homefront provides these new and expecting parents with early childhood education tips and a support system when loved ones are far away. This is one way that we support and give strength to military families.

 How do you feel knowing that you are helping so many military families? How are military families important to the rest of the country?

It’s an honor to work for a company that is committed to supporting veterans and military families across the country and it’s great to see the impact we’ve been able to have.  As part of our partnership with Operation Homefront, we’ve supported more than 100 new moms in Jacksonville and San Antonio, filled 800 baby bundles for families across the country and support troops through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront and Emergency Assistance programs. 

Why did you choose to support Operation Homefront?

We were drawn to Operation Homefront’s commitment to our nation’s heroes and their mission to build strong, stable and secure military families so they can thrive in the communities they’ve worked so hard to protect. Their mission directly aligns with our company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better. 

cvsinthecommunityblog3Which Operation Homefront programs resonated with CVS most?

Operation Homefront has many great programs that are helping military members and their families. In addition to Star Spangled Babies, CVS Health is also proud to support Homes on the Homefront to provide military families with financial support for much-needed items like groceries, rent and heating bills. We understand the challenges that military families face as they transition to civilian life and are proud to support Operation Homefront’s efforts to minimize these struggles as much as possible.

With the help of generous partners like CVS, Operation Homefront is “Giving Strength” to thousands of military families in need this holiday season. Operation Homefront would like to thank CVS for its tremendous support of our mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families. Check out these pictures from the Star-Spangled Baby Showers in Jacksonville and San Antonio and see the impact our partnership is having on our military families.

kenruffblog

Operation Homefront CEO and President, John I. Pray, Jr. with Ken Ruff, Vice President of national accounts at Beam Suntory after Ken was given a cornerstone award for his work in making Holiday Meals for Military come to life.

By Erin Patterson.

It was late the night before Thanksgiving in 2009. Ken Ruff, the vice president of national accounts at Beam Suntory, was exhausted. He and his family had just finished the long drive from their home in Chicago to their hometown of Utica, New York. Ken’s daughter was sick with a cold, so he went to the grocery store to buy some cold medicine for her, looking forward to relaxing with his family the following day. While waiting in line at the grocery store to buy the medicine, he was so travel-weary he almost didn’t notice what was happening in front of him.

A young family—a soldier in uniform, his wife, and their small child—couldn’t afford to pay for their groceries. They had picked out a small piece of turkey, a loaf of bread, a box of stuffing, and a can of cranberry sauce for their Thanksgiving meal the following day, but they didn’t have enough money to buy even these few items. When Ken realized what was happening, he stepped in and paid for the groceries, insisting in spite of the young family’s polite refusal.

“It came out to a total of something like $15,” Ken said. “It was an easy thing to do.”

Ken didn’t think much of the situation at first. He was just happy to have been able to help the family, who was incredibly grateful for the gift. It wasn’t until he got back to his car in the parking lot that he was struck by an idea. It bothered him that there are so many military families who struggle during the holidays, and he wanted to do something about it.

“Christmas is a wonderful time to unplug and be with families and friends, and a lot of these people couldn’t entertain in their homes, they had to go to the base to get a holiday meal and if they had a grandparent or someone from their extended family they wouldn’t be included,” Ken remembers. “They are challenged every day of the year. It’s a very hard life for the military. During the holidays, it’s even that much more of a need because you have presents, meals, etc., so that need is even higher. Providing groceries means that they don’t have to pay for it, so there’s that sense of relief to enjoy being at home with their family.”

Ken called up his financial manager at Beam Suntory and told him to cancel the order of holiday gift baskets, which the company usually gave out to customers around the holidays. He knew that would make dollars available to make a difference in the lives of military families.

“I knew that it was a very real need that these military families don’t have the resources to have a nice meal at home. It spawned the idea to develop program. We knew that this would literally bring joy to the families,” Ken said.

Then, Ken called up Operation Homefront. Beam Suntory already had a long-standing relationship with Operation Homefront, so Ken knew that this was an organization he could trust to partner with on this program.

Ken went in front of the Beam Suntory leadership to present what would be an extraordinary idea: to create a holiday meals program in partnership with Operation Homefront. Beam Suntory was completely on board and wanted to support Ken as much as they could. The program aligned perfectly with Beam’s corporate values of taking care of the communities where their employees live and work.

With the support of both the Beam Suntory leadership and Operation Homefront, Ken now had just four weeks to pull together the holiday meals program before Christmas. He recruited different partners to donate money, food, or volunteers, and ultimately gave groceries to 500 military families. As more and more people heard about the program, they wanted to get involved and help out for the following year.

Since the beginning, the program has grown every year, delivering more meals to more military families in need. It began expanding into different bases around the country, bringing in more donations and helping even more families. The volunteers started to make the events more exciting for the families, setting up Christmas decorations and even bringing in Santa Claus for the kids. In 2015, the program delivered holiday meals to 8,500 military families. And this year, the program is expected to serve more than 12,000 military families.

Ken attributes much of the program’s development to the many partners that have jumped in and given financial donations or donations of food or time.

“Nobody thought this program would grow as much as it did. As the saying goes, it takes a community,” Ken said.

One of the main reasons why Beam Suntory has continued to partner with Operation Homefront over the years is its fiscal responsibility. 92% of Operation Homefront’s donations go directly to their programs, such as Holiday Meals for Military.

“We believe in what we’re doing with Operation Homefront,” said Emily York, the corporate communications manager at Beam Suntory. “We are very responsible with our philanthropic dollars and we want to put them to good use. The commitment to Operation Homefront and the belief in what you guys are doing is shared to the very top of our organization.

Looking back on the past few years, Ken is proud of the impact that the holiday meals program has had on so many military families, and he is incredibly grateful for the partnerships that have helped the program to continue to grow.

“It was fate being in that grocery store and having the good fortune to think of an idea to do something positive about it. I am very impressed with everything that Operation Homefront does for this program, and I’m very proud that Operation Homefront continues it,” Ken said. “The program is what it is because of Operation Homefront. I’m the first one to tell you that the support of Beam is very important, but the people at Operation Homefront make it happen. I’m really looking forward to a great holiday season. I truly believe that this will be our best year ever.”

 

 

kathy-cox-blog

Pictured left to right: Walmart Executive Vice-President of Logistics Chris Sultemeier, Senior Manager at the Walmart Foundation Kathy Cox, Vice President Walmart Foundation Julie Gehrki and Operation Homefront President and CEO, John I. Pray, Jr.

Today we are joined by Kathy Cox, a senior manager at the Walmart Foundation, who shares the connection Walmart has with our military communities and the Foundation’s involvement in Holiday Meals for Military. 

By Erin Patterson.

The Holiday Meals for Military program can trace its start to the actions of a noble man who was moved to help a young military family pay for their groceries on the night before Thanksgiving seven years ago. One meal for one family gradually turned into hundreds, then thousands of meals for military families across the U.S. This year, the Holiday Meals for Military program will provide nearly 12,000 meals to families around the country.

The program would not be what it is today without the help of key partners, such as the Walmart Foundation. Kathy Cox, a senior manager at the Walmart Foundation, has led the strategy and grant-making for veteran and military families for the last 16 years. When she heard about the Holiday Meals for Military program, she knew that it was something Walmart wanted to support.

“Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have worked really hard since the beginning of this conflict [in Iraq and Afghanistan] to stay close to the pulse of our service members and our military families,” Kathy said. “In 2009, you’ve got American personnel and their families that had some real stress and strain. We had folks that were losing their loved ones, we had military service members who were injured. There were some real—both physical and financial—hardships that these families were dealing with. So for the holidays, what we wanted to be able to do was lift some of that burden.”

kathycoxblogimage2For Kathy and for the Walmart Foundation, it was the perfect time and the perfect program. Even more, she was very excited to be working with Operation Homefront. Kathy loved that Operation Homefront had strong relationships with military bases around the country, which meant that they would be able to specifically identify the families who most needed this type of program. At the same time, she was impressed with Operation Homefront’s fiscal responsibility. With 92% of financial donations going directly to programs like Holiday Meals for Military, Kathy knew that Operation Homefront was leveraging the Walmart Foundation’s dollars to have the highest positive impact on military families.

“We wouldn’t be investing if we weren’t certain that our military families were being served and were being served in the most efficient and effective way that makes use of our both in-kind and financial support,” Kathy said.

Looking out for service members and their families comes naturally to the Walmart Foundation. The Walmart family is filled with military families, and they have a lot of men and women who have served in the military and who are now a part of Walmart’s workforce. Furthermore, Kathy noted that military families often make up the community surrounding many Walmart stores around the country.

“There’s quite an alignment with military families anyway because that’s part of our DNA. If you’re surrounded by military families, you want to make sure that you’re supporting military families,” Kathy said.

Because the military is already such an integral part of Walmart’s community, the Foundation’s involvement in the Holiday Meals for Military program began quite organically, starting at the associate-level and moving up through the company.

“While the Foundation has helped with the corporate dollars, most recently in this campaign to make in-kind food donations, it’s our associates who have led. It’s the managers of stores that have been aligned with bases and military families that have a sincere desire to be that store of the community that serves these military families and helps lessen the challenge of putting a holiday meal on the table,” Kathy said.

Even though it started at a grassroots level, Walmart has an emotional investment—not just financial—in this program. Kathy remembers one year when she volunteered her Friday night to help prepare the bags of ingredients for the families. A young lady with two children came to register her family, and Kathy remembers how she could see that this mother had a lot weighing on her mind. As she went through the registration process, she was told that she and her family were the recipients of Christmas gifts that had been donated by another organization.

“And that’s when her resolve just broke,” Kathy remembers. “Once she regained her composure, she said, ‘You just have no idea. First, I had no idea how I was going to put a holiday meal on the table for my family. Now you’re telling me that also I have gifts that I’ll be able to share with my family. You have no idea how this will change our entire holiday season.’”

As we settle into the holiday season this year, Kathy reminds us that it’s important to be intentional in remembering our military families. Many of them are far from home and worried about whether or not they will be able to provide a happy, memorable holiday season for their children.

“Not all military families are base and with our all-volunteer force we have military families around us all the time,” Kathy noted. “I think we have to be intentional to try to get to know those families and to make sure that we’re being inclusive and recognize that not only are our military service members serving and sacrificing, these military families at home are serving and sacrificing right alongside them.”

pearlharborblog1Today is the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

One could argue that every generation has its defining moment. But there are a few events that so fundamentally change the world, in ways so profound, that they echo in our consciousness and our hearts…even seven decades later.

The attack on December 7, 1941 is one of them.

Though not ignorant of what was happening in the world at the time, Americans at the time felt secure, convinced to a large degree that the country was untouchable.

We weren’t.

The vast majority of us were not born when the nation was attacked in such a shocking manner. For many Americans, even their parents weren’t born. It can be easy, as the years go on and our World War II veterans pass on, to let the day pass unnoticed. There may be some who wonder why it is brought up at all.
But though we may not have witnessed the events of that day nor experienced directly the three years of global war and unfathomable loss of life that would follow, make no mistake. We have all been shaped by it.

As the Scottish philosopher and historian, Thomas Carlyle wrote “The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past.”

pearlharboremembrancedaySo, we acknowledge the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor because we must remember that the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance. That cost was born by our WWII veterans then, and by millions more before and after. We can see the cost under the waves in Hawaii, in rows at Arlington, at our VA hospitals, and in the eyes of our loved ones who have seen war. Here at Operation Homefront, we see it mirrored in the experiences of the families we serve. The events of September 11th were their Pearl Harbor, and like the generations that went to war before them, these military and veteran families have paid a high cost. Our mission was born from the knowledge of the cost that would be paid because we remembered the lessons of history.

We acknowledge the anniversary because we must remember that our country is strong, and though we may be brought to our knees or reel from a blow, we get back up. We are reminded of one of America’s most dear ideals: that no matter what your circumstances of birth, or what destiny has in store, there always remains the opportunity to overcome them and forge your own path.

We acknowledge the anniversary because we must remember, every day, to endeavor to deserve the gift given to us by our military veterans. Our country may not be perfect, but we should never stop trying to be better. Never stop trying to earn the sacrifice made on that day and in days that followed.

Please join us today in sharing a message of honor or remembrance. You can post here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. We’d also like to share some online resources where you can learn more about Pearl Harbor and the 75th commemoration.

pearlharborblog2The official website commemorating National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and the 75th Anniversary.

National WWII Museum and their dedicated page for the 75th anniversary.

Smithsonian Learning Lab Pearl Harbor page.

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