Heroes are important.
Heroes rescue the good and defeat the bad. On these points, most kids seem to agree. But the muscular, flying do-gooder, complete with cape and superhuman powers, is not the picture some kids would draw to describe a hero.
In neighborhoods where yellow ribbons are wrapped tightly around tree trunks and blue stars cling to the front windows, the heroes wear boots and their superpowers seem unmatched by any villain.
They call home on special occasions, even though they are thousands of miles away. The sound of their voice is the sweetest tune on the planet. And their appearance, no matter how brief, can instantly wipe away sadness.
At her school at Fort Bragg, N.C., Army daughter Angela Hilliard, 7, drew a picture of her father in uniform under a blue, sunny sky. Under it, she wrote that her father was special because he keeps the country safe. Her father is her hero.
Her friend Ryan Mejia, 8, has a hero too: his soldier dad. What’s a hero to Ryan? “Someone who is very important to the United States of America,” he says.
And Navy daughter Brianna Bransfield, 12, of Hawaii, says her dad is a hero too. “He goes out and does stuff not just for our family but for other people,” she said.
What military children like Ryan, Brianna and Angela forget is that while their fathers are heroes on the battlefield, these youngest citizens are heroes on the homefront.
Last month, Brianna and her five siblings welcomed their father home from sea. The family was jubilant. But, inevitably, they will say goodbye again and the children will ban together to help each other, and their parents thrive through the separation.
Just a few days after Christmas, Angela and her 4-year-old brother Matthew bid their father farewell at the airport, after he spent two weeks home from Afghanistan. They will face holidays, birthdays and the end of the school year without their hero by their side to cheer them on. They do it for the greater good of children across America.
Military children around the globe spend months, sometimes years, without their hero by their side so that other families can be rescued. They do it without complaint, without pay and often, without thanks.
Many of these children rise above during trying deployments and become community leaders. Often, they take on the roles that many adults shrink from in fear. They don’t need to wear a superhero cape to show their bravery and courage.
These children, who understand more than most what a true hero is, are heroes themselves. They have earned a well-deserved thank you from America. Do you know a military child who has made a positive impact on their family and community? Nominate these young heroes for the Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year Award. The deadline is Jan. 31.
Go to www.operationhomefront.net/mcoy for more information.