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Archive for April, 2018

Avid reader Shelby Barber draws inspiration from a favorite author, the always quotable John Green of “The Fault in Our Stars” fame.

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” This line from Green’s novel, “Abundance of Katherines,” is among the quotes that speaks to Barber, who received the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation for her idea to help severe allergy sufferers, especially young children, administer medication more easily. The Operation Homefront award is presented by global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which will assign a team to help her develop a plan for scaling her project.

Shelby also likes this Green quote from “Turtles All the Way Down”: “You’re both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You’re the narrator, the protagonist, and the side-kick. You’re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody’s something, but you are also your you.”

Shelby says the statement addresses people’s potential. “We are all so much more than we think we are, but so many people depend on everyone else around them, when we all have so much strength inside,” she said.

Perhaps Shelby admires Green not only for his writing, but for his philanthropical efforts, his willingness to discuss his own obsessive-compulsive disorder to help destigmatize mental illness, and the free, educational YouTube channel he co-created with his brother, Hank. The brothers’ Project for Awesome has raised millions of dollars for numerous charities that “decrease the overall level of world suck.”

Like Green, Shelby, a high school senior, aspires to make change and give back. She volunteers for organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and March of Dimes, and received The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Young Womanhood Recognition for establishing “a pattern of progress in your life,” “serving others, and developing and sharing your gifts and talents.”

Shelby is a proponent of making military families and children more aware of all the resources available to help support them. She remembers realizing her life as a military child was different from civilians’ in middle school, “when peers didn’t want to be my friend because they knew I would be moving.”

Sometimes, outsiders get the wrong idea about what military life is like. It does not necessarily occur to them how difficult and challenging it can be — for both the child and the parent — when a parent is deployed for months, or how lonely it feels to move far from relatives and friends. “People just see the benefits and they assume it’s just easy and it’s not,” Shelby said.

Her father’s service is “an example of selflessness as my dad is willing to sacrifice his own life for others,” she said of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Barber. “He has spent countless months away from us and does it because he wants to serve his country.”

That’s why Shelby advises other military kids to “make goals and follow through on them regardless of where you move to and who you have around you.”

After all, living in another country or on a distant base can be one of the best advantages of military life, Shelby said, helping families become more culturally aware and familiar with world affairs. She has loved living in Hawaii and England, where she discovered a new breakfast treat, crumpets.

Shelby, who wants to be a cardiac surgeon, may have her mother to thank if she realizes that goal someday. Elizabeth Barber taught her daughter the value of diligence, and “if you want something you have to work for it.”

See highlights from Shelby’s long list of achievements:

Meet all seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year® recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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Listening to his father speak at a 9/11 ceremony in 2015 was a time Aaron Hall felt proudest to be a military child. Hearing his dad tell the audience that serving and inspiring others to serve are among the best ways to honor the lost lives made an impact on Aaron, and he has heeded that call to action ever since.

“It allowed me to realize that my father’s experiences were different than others and how important military service is,” Aaron said of that speech in Oakhurst, California. The following year, while he was a high school freshman, the 2018 National Guard Military Child of the Year® recipient planned the first annual baseball Military Appreciation Game and dinner in O’Neals, California, for local service members and veterans that also benefited a veterans service organization.

Now it was his dad’s turn to be proud. Col. David Hall watched the game on FaceTime from Kuwait, where he was deployed at the time. Aaron, the varsity baseball team captain, has kept the annual event going, while serving the community in many other capacities, participating in other sports and maintaining an off-the-charts grade point average, proving, as he says, “whenever you do something you should give it your all.”

If Aaron, a junior now, attends the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, he would follow in the footsteps of his brother, Grant, and father, who has served on active duty for more than 20 years. In the meantime, he welcomes every chance to educate civilians about the ups and downs of military life, especially noting that National Guard kids who live in remote areas away from military installations need adequate support. Aaron considers it a privilege to “bring a story to the table that those around me don’t understand or have” because he knows firsthand what it’s like to miss a parent who’s away on military service, possibly in harm’s way.

“It is important that Americans learn about the life of military families,” he said. “Sometimes well-intended questions have a negative effect because they just don’t know what it is like.”

In that same spirit, when asked about family traditions, Aaron mentions praying for all fallen soldiers and their families, as well as those serving overseas during the holidays. “It is important to realize how lucky we are to be together in peace and who is providing that for us,” he said.

Like his dad, Aaron’s mother, Christina Hall, has had a strong influence on her son’s life. Guidance some teenagers might call hounding (think: finish your homework; do your chores; don’t argue with your sister), Aaron recognizes as helping him become a better person. “She is the type of person who tells you to stop whatever you are doing,” he said. “Then 5 minutes later, tells you to stop whatever you are doing again when you didn’t fix it. And then again.”

“She is never afraid to get involved when it comes to conflicts that raise question of right or wrong because she always ensures that “right” is persevering,” Aaron continued. “When I start to fall back into a bad habit, she is always there to correct and help me … showing love and compassion … Without her, I would not nearly be the person I am today.”

See highlights from Aaron’s long list of achievements:

Meet all seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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Rebekah Paxton was forced to grow up quickly.

Our 2018 Army Military Child of the Year® Award recipient, Rebecca was confronted first-hand with the wounds of war when her father was injured as a combat medic in the 82nd Airborne Division. He served 19 years and, now medically retired, suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. He is also a cancer survivor.

Coming to her family’s aid as a de facto third parent, Rebekah has spent much of her childhood caring for herself and for her younger brother and sister. She fed them, prepared them for school every morning, and took them to sports practices and games.

Rebekah has used the trial as fuel to motivate her toward a better future. Currently aspiring to become a neurosurgeon, she competed in three subjects for two years with the University Interscholastic League and earned the Medical Science Award of Excellence. “I have grown up at the Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio and I fell in love with the medical field. After I finish my residency I would like to apply for Doctors Without Borders and take two years helping other people worldwide,” she said.

As she has made college plans, Rebekah has set her sights on someday raising awareness of the plight of wounded veterans and their families. It’s no surprise that giving back is a big part of Rebekah’s past, present and future. Rebekah arrives at a life of helping others naturally. It’s in her DNA. Members of her family have served in the military from the Civil War to present day.

“Personally, I believe there is not enough support for military kids (and) families. I have (had to learn) how to cope with my father’s military-related injuries alone. Not many people outside my family realize what we have gone through in this process and I believe no one really wants to know what goes on. I believe civilians do not understand completely what it is like to have a service member come home from the terrors of war,” said Rebekah.

In addition to her passions, Rebecca has a heavy academic load, taking advanced placement courses as well as dual enrollment courses at Missouri Southern State University. Yet she still has time to pursue athletics and serve her community wherever possible. She is a varsity athlete in three sports, and has volunteered hundreds of hours working with children and faith groups. She was editor for the school yearbook and a writer for the school newspaper.

Rebekah certainly has risen to the many challenges her family has faced, and her life is an example of the quote that inspires her:

If all struggles and sufferings were eliminated, the spirit would no more reach maturity than would the child. (Elizabeth Elliott)

“I realize that what I have gone through during these trials have made me better. When I was in my toughest moments I did not believe that I would come out if those times okay. But God has been there the whole time and has given me an opportunity to do amazing things in life,” said Rebekah.

See highlights from Rebekah’s long list of achievements:

Meet all of our seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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When one meets Roark Corson, our 2018 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year®, there is no doubt that the future is in good hands.

“The movers and shakers of the world are not afraid to do things outside of their comfort zones or afraid to go to previously uncharted territory. The people who do great things for their communities and other people are courageous and willing to risk their safety and comfort for others. My dad exemplified that in his Coast Guard career, whether it was literally going into unfamiliar waters in a 378-foot cutter or working to support his crew members in new and unique endeavors. I know that in order for me to make an impact on my own community in the future, I will have to take bold action that may be frightening,“ he shared.

Roark demonstrates that ethos in everything he does. He is an academic superstar at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, VA, with a weighted GPA of 4.512 as an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction. He is a National Merit Scholarship finalist and has achieved something common to only 0.1% of high school students … a perfect 36 on the ACT.

In 2017, Roark won first place at the regional Tidewater Robotics and Maker Entrepreneur Challenge, which focused on designing and 3D printing an assistive technology device and devising product business and marketing plans. He also received the prestigious Princeton Book Award in 11th grade. Also in his junior year, Roark won first place in the Environmental Science category in the regional science fair, and his research has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Emerging Investigators.

While his academic resume is impressive, so is his dedication to serve others.

Roark has a passion for public speaking and is proud to use his voice to speak out about youth mental illness. Roark lost two friends to suicide in three years. In response, he began volunteering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the I Need a Lighthouse (suicide prevention) Foundation (INAL). He manages NAMI’s online calendar, raises funds, participates in teen conferences, and is a featured speaker for events that raise awareness of and dispel stigma surrounding youth depression and suicide. He was awarded the 2018 Helen P. Shropshire Human Rights Youth Award by the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission for his mental health advocacy work.

An Eagle scout, Roark has been involved with food, clothing and blanket drives at the family’s various duty stations, and his Eagle Scout project was building a butterfly garden in the courtyard of an inner-city K-12 school in Charleston, S.C.

As a member of the high school crew team, Roark earned two varsity letters and was elected captain his senior year.

As he graduates this year and heads off to college, Roark would like to pursue a career in law, as it offers him a way to combine his many talents and passion to empower others and better his community.

Roark is the son of Capt. Caleb Corson and Dr. Tyler Corson of Virginia Beach, VA.

See highlights from Roark’s long list of achievements:

Meet all of our seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times.

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