On a night fit for a rock star, the 2014 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) gala lived up to its billing last week as the “preeminent recognition event for military kids,” in the words of president and CEO Jim Knotts. More than 300 loyal fans gathered to celebrate and honor five truly outstanding young Americans who understand what it means “to serve,” at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va.
With more than 2 million military kids today – who all serve their country as an extension of their parents – it’s incredibly difficult to select just five honorees. However, when you consider the level of achievement, selfless service to others, as well as future goals and aspirations, there’s no doubt that these kids stack up to any group of young people across America!
MCOY wouldn’t be what it is today without the literally “uniform” support of our nation’s senior most military leadership. Back for the third straight year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey set a tone and an example modeled by the other service chiefs and senior leaders in attendance. “We can’t settle for mediocrity…the kids here tonight will not accept mediocrity and will make a difference in the world,” General Dempsey told the audience when acknowledging a common question he faces about whether the country is advancing or declining.
General Dempsey proved once again this year that he can set tone through more than stature and presence alone – and treated everyone to a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” – but with a twist. Recognizing the star power available to him in the audience, General Dempsey sought out the keynote speaker for the evening, legendary rocker and philanthropist Bret Michaels, to join him on stage. While there aren’t any plans in place for them to go on tour – yet – there’s no doubt that together they injected an unprecedented level of energy into an already high power evening.
For Michaels, his opportunity to deliver remarks as the keynote was an expression of his thanks for the sacrifices made by those in the military and their families. As a military kid himself, he stood in awe of the achievements of the honorees. “I get to play music the way I want to do it, I get to look the way I want to look and it’s all because of the sacrifice you made,” Michaels said to the honorees, their parents, and those veterans and service members in the audience. “I want to congratulate [them] on their fight in overcoming adversity [and] taking a chance to make some great opportunities.”
FOX News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel did a masterful job as emcee for the evening, adeptly moving between each senior military award presenter and guest, with the perfect balance of humor and genuine expression of gratitude for military service writ large.