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Archive for February, 2020

In selecting seven military teens to receive the Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Award, we see some of the brightest minds, biggest hearts, and strongest characters among the young people in our country.

Now in its 12th year, MCOY recognizes outstanding young people ages 13 to 18 who demonstrate resiliency, leadership, and achievement during their parents’ military service. One winner is chosen to represent each branch of the armed forces – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard – and a seventh is recognized with the Innovation award. The Innovation award, sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton, honors a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge.

For winners, the awards have lasting impact.

“This program has taught me so much that I can use in whatever endeavor I pursue in life,” said Brandon Mammano, the 2019 Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation. “I’ve also made new friends for life. Each of the MCOY recipient’s stories shows you a different aspect of military life. But we all have felt that sense of being alone sometimes, and that’s when we have to lean on each other.”

Campbell Miller, the 2019 MCOY winner representing the National Guard, said he keeps in touch with other recipients from last year.

“We still encourage one another, talk to each other about significant life events, and sometimes just laugh together,” he said.

Eve Glenn, 2018 MCOY for Air Force, said the award was a way to honor her father, who is now retired from the United States Air Force. “Now I continue to partner with Operation Homefront. … Recognition from Operation Homefront and the MCOY empowered me to advocate for military populations in college and beyond.”

Winning the 2018 MCOY Award for Navy enabled Isabelle Richards to expand her outreach to wounded warriors and veterans.

“Currently, I am proud to say I serve wounded warriors, healing heroes, and veterans in 45 states,” she said. “This past year I made or had delivered 11,000 cupcakes and cards to those service members and veterans. That is almost 11,000 service members who know they are still cared about and honored.”

Operation Homefront’s mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. We understand the challenges of our military families, and we are honored to recognize the MCOY teens for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, and extracurricular involvement in the face of those challenges.

Each winner will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., with a parent or guardian along with $10,000, a laptop computer, and other donated prizes.

Our 2020 honorees will be introduced April 2 at a gala in Washington, D.C. To learn more about MCOY, visit the MCOY website.

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It’s Valentine’s Day weekend and what better way for Operation Homefront to honor Cupid than with a meet-cute story that ends in a wedding six weeks later. Yup, six weeks! Army veteran Amanda Schroeder shared the story of how she and her husband Matt Schroeder, also an Army veteran, met, fell in love, and surprised their families after they eloped.

Amanda and Matt have two kids, Emmanuelle, 16, and Kenneth, 12. They married 6 weeks after they met.

Amanda served in the Army from 2000 to 2003 and Matt served from 2000 to 2005, including a deployment to Afghanistan. They were both linguists and in military intelligence. They have two kids, Emmanuelle, 16, and Kenneth, 12.

Here is how Amanda recaps their amazing story:

We have a really beautiful love story, I think.

We went on a date and six weeks to the day after the first date, we were married.

My roommate in the barracks, Melissa (aka Mel), played on our company’s softball team, and my husband, who was in our company, played on that team too. I had noticed him before but hadn’t talked to him.

The only game we lost that year was against the Marines. After  the game, there was a Marine who talked to Mel and he asked us if we wanted to go get a beer later and we said ‘yes.’ So, after the game, and our dismal loss, Mel and I are packing up to go back to the barracks and she told me I needed to bring a date. She was wanting to send a clear message. She said, ‘I don’t care who but you need to bring a date.’

She looks around like a crazy person and her eyes settle on Matt and she says, ‘take Schroeder.’ I saw him several months before on post. I thought he was smoking hot. I walked up to him and asked if he wanted to get a beer. We go out and I’m driving with Mel sitting up front and Matt is in the back. I didn’t even know his first name because everyone always called him Schroeder. Eventually he said, “You can call me Matt” and I said, “Why would I do that?” His reply was “Because that’s my first name.”

Her team may have lost the game, but she won his heart.

Her team may have lost the game, but she won his heart.

Mel tells us we need to pretend that we are dating and told us to hold hands. We get out of the car and we’re holding hands walking through a brewery but it’s in Monterrey, California, and it’s super romantic, right next to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We were sitting outside because we were smokers back then. We just connected so strongly and really bonded over discussing our love of travel and literature and things that really impacted our lives, our hopes and dreams. I went to light my cigarette and he just swoops in and kisses me.

And I was almost sad. Here was this super-hot, perfect person who was going to be gone for a year.

But I knew I would marry him. I called my mom when I got back. She asked how my day was. I told her I went on a date and that it was really good. I said you are going to meet this guy because I am going to marry him.

Apparently, the next week he had talked to his mom too and told her he had found the one.

We eloped and didn’t tell anybody. Nobody knew except our platoon sergeants and first sergeants, Mel, who set us up, and my best friend from France. When I told her about him, she bought an open-ended ticket. Because I was in the barracks, she had no place to stay so my platoon sergeant let her stay with him and his wife. She was my witness. (Amanda’s daughter is named after her best friend and will be traveling to France this summer to stay with her.)

We met on May 15, 2001 and got married on June 29, 2001. My parents were even in town, which was crazy. My mom is still mad about that!

When you know, you know.

I was 24 and he was 27. We weren’t babies by any means. Matt and I both had lived on our own since 18. I had lived abroad for two years and worked for another foreign government for a year. We both traveled. I taught English in France. He was a biochemist. We were both pretty confident that we were a good fit.

We told our parents after 9/11. When 9/11 happened, my mom was panicked. It was a terrifying, terrifying time. I told my mom and I asked her if she still wanted a wedding. On our one-year anniversary we had our big wedding and we’ve been together ever since.

We are so well-suited for each other, but very different in personality. I battled breast cancer in 2013 and my personality changed a bit, but before that I was a huge extrovert. I had my hand in every pot on base, any social event, I was very present. And Matt’s just, well, he’s quietly excellent.

Because of my injuries from service are frequently aggravated, I can’t work. However, I see it as having an amazing opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. My husband is a police officer, which is a really weird job for him because he was a research scientist. He’s really good at it. I can say I’m married to one of Portland’s finest.

And I love our love story.

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As a military spouse of 20 years, Aileen Boone knows the difficulty of connecting and making new friends with each move. Her most recent was to San Antonio, where she and her husband had been for 18 months before she heard about Operation Homefront’s Homefront Celebration program, which celebrates the service of our military spouses.

Aileen was one of more than 80 military spouses who recently attended the special night of dinner, dancing and making new friends. She met Rita Valdez, a 12-year military spouse, and the two planned on staying in touch.

Rita and Aileen struck up a friendship at Homefront Celebration San Antonio, TX. The two plan to stay in touch.

 

“It’s uplifting and it’s nice to meet people going through the same things,” Aileen said. “We’ve got a common bond.”

Rita agreed, adding that she had already texted her husband who was in training in Dallas that she was having a great time.

“Everything is totally awesome,” she said. “It gives us a moment for ourselves and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Along with door prizes and a very popular S’mores bar, guests also enjoyed speaker Brittany Boccher, a military spouse since 2005 and founder of Discovering Your Spark: Find Your Color in a Camouflage World.

Brittany gave a mini version of her workshop that was created to help military spouses find their passion and balance in life. She now does consulting and speaking engagements to help promote the needs of military spouses both inside and outside the military community.

The Feb. 7 event was made possible through the generous support of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). As part of the celebration, SNHU presented Eliana Cornejo with a four-year scholarship. Married for 10 years to Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Kevin Cornejo and mom to two children, the scholarship comes at a great time for Eliana, who plans to pursue a business administration degree that she will use for a new career and to assist at her church.

“I’m so grateful (to donors) they are opening so many doors and providing so many opportunities,” Eliana said. Hear more about Eliana’s journey as a military spouse here.

Since Operation Homefront began Homefront Celebrations in 2009, the program has served more than 8,600 military spouses.

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by Tracy Lehman, Operation Homefront

As a full-time caregiver for her wounded-warrior husband and a mom of two, Angela Walter works every day to keep her family safe.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, woman put extra thought into emergency preparedness. “What are you going to do if whoever you’re caring for freaks out” in an emergency, she wondered.

Having an emergency plan in place can help the whole family get to safety if they need to evacuate.

Angela, who volunteers with Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor caregiver support program as a group facilitator in Colorado, shared tips for fire safety and emergency planning.

Sound the alarm

Did you know smoke alarms expire? The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacement every 10 years. The date of manufacture should be on the back of the alarm.

Check that smoke detectors are installed on each level of your home – including the basement – and in each bedroom or outside each sleeping area.

Plans B and C

How would you get out of your home if the main exit is blocked? Make an escape plan, and practice it with your family.

“We live in a townhouse, and we would have to jump out our window in the back,” Angela said. The drop would be about 15 feet, so the family added a ladder in the back.

Angela Walter, a Hearts of Valor facilitator, is a caregiver for her husband, retired Army Spc. Daniel Walter. Their children, Hunter and Ariana, know their roles in emergency situations.

Call for help

Establish a communication board with emergency phone numbers. Post the board in a prominent place in the home, and make sure the numbers are easy to access in everyone’s phones. Don’t forget to update when numbers change.

Give family members – even older children – responsibilities such as helping get pets or younger children to safety. List each person’s tasks, and review those regularly.  (The CDC has a great page with info and tools for preparing children)

Just in case

Store backup copies of vital documents – insurance papers and drivers licenses, for example – on a flash drive that can be stored away from your house. Send the drive to a family member or stash it in a safety deposit box.

Do you have tips on emergency preparedness? Share in the comments.

Related topics:

Top 3 tips for helping your family adjust after a move

Did you know?

Operation Homefront has a Critical Financial Assistance program? Click here to learn more.

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