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Archive for the ‘Giving Strength’ Category

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many military families. Army Veteran Nicole Walcott and her new business were significantly impacted during this time.

For the past three years, Army veteran Nicole Walcott has been building up her alternative health and wellness business in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The business was born due to a back injury she endured after a Humvee accident as a specialist, while stationed in South Korea. She and her husband, Joshua, had met in basic training, and both were in Korea when the accident occurred. They eventually were stationed in Fayetteville, where both were honorably discharged as service-disabled veterans in 2014.

Joshua became a police officer and Nicole began working in economics, which was her background before entering the service. But after having her two children, she learned that she had degenerative arthritis in her spine, likely the result of the accident. She lived daily with debilitating pain.

She was at a retreat to get yoga teacher certification for first responders when she discovered float therapy.

“I got out of the tank and I told one of the officers who had come with me for the certification ‘I literally was like I have to get this back to Fayetteville. I did research and there was nothing within 90 miles of us and my business brain turns on. As quickly as I could, I got together some of my own capital, I found a private investor and we opened our doors in December of 2017.”

Called Shanti Wellness, Nicole’s business paid for 90 percent of the family’s bills. She was expanding with military contracts and she and her partners planned on adding cryotherapy. But in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused shut-downs of businesses nationwide, especially service-related ones like Shanti Wellness, Nicole’s family was left without the majority of their income.

”Things like this you can’t see coming,” Nicole said. “You can’t prepare for this. We aren’t even three years old. I told my husband I could understand a 30 percent revenue but we were at a 95% revenue drop overnight. It was insane, I couldn’t believe it.”

She read about Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program during a search for grants and loans to help businesses and veterans. She applied for assistance in both April and May. Thanks to generous donors, Operation Homefront was able to help Nicole pay more than $2,100 for food assistance, utilities, and car payments in April. In May, her family received $1,400 for rent assistance.

“We were so thankful because now that those bills were taken care of for April, we didn’t have to worry about how we would pay all these other business bills,” she said. “That’s one of the problems. There’s help for individuals and personal bills, nothing for businesses and business bills and we still have all of that to pay for. Honestly, (Operation Homefront) was the biggest help to us. It was a huge financial burden lifted.”

Nicole said she was worried about being able to keep the utilities on for her business to be able to open in June, if restrictions were lifted. Not having the business is not just a financial burden, but there are all those clients who will be without their pain relief.

The fact that she was able to get the help in funding she needed, spurred her and other small business owners to start a GoFundMe account for owners who could not get help. So far, they have helped raise $500 for two owners. The goal is to make sure all Fayetteville businesses have a shot of staying open, something she sees could be a ripple effect stemming from Operation Homefront helping her business.

“If we survive that’s fantastic,” Nicole said. “But it’s going to be a long road. If we’re the only business standing downtown, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has to make it.”

 


We are grateful to the following partners who support our Critical Financial Assistance program and help military families get through their short-term, financial struggles so they do not become long-term chronic challenges:

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Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient Troy Wesley watched as circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic diminished his family’s income and left him wondering how to stretch the family budget to feed his family of five.

Troy was furloughed from his job as a security guard when the bank where he worked closed its lobby to the public. His wife, LaQuanna, was also furloughed from her job as a police officer in Greenville, Mississippi, because of budget shortfalls after the city’s main business, a casino, was forced to close because of the pandemic.

Troy also had to shutter his barbecue catering business when supplies became unavailable.

The family’s expenses had increased with their three children –a 14-year-old son and 17-year-old twins –home schooling, and Troy stressed about how to stretch his VA disability pay cover all the family’s expenses.

“It was tough times,” he said. “I do everything I can for my family, and it feels bad when I can’t provide.”

In May, Troy applied for Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program, and thanks to generous donors, the family received a $250 gift card to buy food. He felt relieved and thankful.

“I’m grateful for what Operation Homefront has done for me and my family,” he said.

He explained that Operation Homefront (OH) assisted with home-repair expenses three years ago when the family’s home needed a new roof.

Clockwise from bottom left: Troy Wesley; wife LaQuanna; son Tyler Moore, 14; and twins Kaleb and Kalan Lockett, 17.

“My oldest son had passed away, and I was in a dark place at that time,” Troy recalled. “The help from Operation Homefront lifted me.”

Troy joined the Army ROTC when he was in college at Mississippi Valley State University. “A lot of people I admired had served, and I was inspired by the different world they had.”

He served 20 years and worked as a military police commander, earning the rank of major. He was deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2005 in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He earned a Bronze Star for his service there as a commander of soldiers who patrolled 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Troy lives with PTSD and the effects of a leg injury he suffered in Iraq when he was run over by a piece of equipment.

He appreciates Operation Homefront and its donors for honoring and helping service members.

“The help (Operation Homefront) provides is important to my family and all other service members who have served this great country,” he said. “The donors who make this help possible are true patriots.”

 


We are grateful to the following partners who support our Critical Financial Assistance program and help military families get through their short-term, financial struggles so they do not become long-term chronic challenges:

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We are honored to have been a part of helping the Woodard family on their journey to a strong, stable, and secure future.

Coast Guard veteran Joshua Woodard and his family did so well in Operation Homefront’s Transitional Homes for Community Reintegration (THCR) program that they were able to leave early, buy their own home, and become the program’s first graduates.

Launched in 2018, THCR helps veteran families, in collaboration with caseworkers and financial counselors, gain the knowledge they need to become successful home owners, and work to improve credit scores, pay off debt, and accumulate savings in order to buy their own home in these communities.

The Woodard family was the second family in Texas to be accepted into the program. In March 2019, Joshua, his wife Ravin, and their two boys, Elijah and Samuel, then 2 and eight months, respectively, moved into a THCR home in Katy, a suburb outside of Houston.

“Thank you,” Ravin said to Operation Homefront and the donors. “We have grown as a family and focused on bettering our future because of everything you have done.”

Living rent free in the newly built, three-bedroom, two-bath home, allowed Joshua to focus on earning his degree , while both could spend more time with their boys and becoming more involved at their church. The family was able to decrease debt by $17,400 and increase their savings by more than $20,000. This gave them the flexibility to buy their own home closer to their church and still live in the Houston/Galveston area.

Joshua is studying to become a dental hygienist, a new career path he had not expected to be on when he first joined the Coast Guard in 2011. He had planned on being in the service as a career but about two years later, doctors diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation, irregular heartbeat that can lead to complications. Even after surgery his heart was not functioning properly, and he was medically retired.

The family was living in a cramped apartment, barely making ends meet, when they were accepted into the THCR program. Joshua and Ravin said the financial counseling they received helped them stay on target and teach them how to be in control of their finances.

Our THCR program is currently accepting applications for the program for homes in Fuquay-Varina, NC (Raleigh), Katy, TX (Houston), and our newest home in Canton, GA. Help us get the word out about this incredible program. Learn more at www.operationhomefront.org/thcr

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by John I. Pray, Jr., President & CEO, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Memorial Day is a special day for America as we honor those who have died while serving our great nation. It is especially important for me, on a very personal level, because of my father. John I. Pray, my father, joined the Army in 1938 after completing the ROTC program and graduating from Ripon College in Wisconsin. After completing many months of training, he married the love of his life, my mother, LaVerne G. Wilson in June 1940, and the Army immediately sent the newlyweds to their first posting in the Philippines, arriving in September 1940. With tensions mounting in the Pacific and war looming on the horizon, the Army returned many family members, including my mother, back to safety of the “states” in February 1941.

John I. Pray, Sr, pictured here during training in the Philippines just prior to the start of World War 2.

War broke out on December 7, 1941 and after many months of intense fighting, the U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered on April 9, 1942. Approximately 75,000 American and Filipino troops, who were already suffering from lack of food and disease, were captured and forced to make a 65-mile march to prison camps. This infamous journey became known as the Bataan Death March – my father was among those soldiers. Thousands perished along the way and an estimated 20,000 soldiers, who survived the march, died in the prison camps from disease, malnutrition, and brutal treatment. My father survived – for three and a half years – and was ultimately repatriated in September 1945.

When I asked my father what sustained him through the many challenges he faced as a prisoner of war, he unhesitatingly told me faith…faith in his family, his country, and his comrades.

My father continued to serve his nation until he retired in 1969.

Each Memorial Day, my father would honor those he served with that did not make it home. He would remember them – their dedication and their lasting contributions to protecting our way of life. Not surprisingly, Memorial Day became and has remained a reverent occasion for our family as we look to remember the very profound contributions of many generations of service men and women and the family members who serve alongside them.

Looking back, I clearly see how my parents’ service and sacrifice inspired me to serve and guided every one of my major career decisions. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve in a variety of capacities – as a member of the U.S. Air Force and as a member of the Bush Administration at the White House and more recently, as a member of the Operation Homefront family where I have the incredible opportunity to continue to serve those that serve.

So as we spend an extended Memorial Day weekend with our families, I would ask that you take a moment during The National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. (your local time) and remember that more than 1.3 million military members have died while serving our great nation. It is an opportunity to honor those who gave up all their tomorrows for our todays.

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Nathan Nenninger was in sixth grade when the Sept. 11 terrorist attack occurred. The event impacted him so greatly that when he was about to graduate high school, he joined the Army National Guard.

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That was 11 years ago, and since then, Nathan has spent much of his service on active duty orders, including deployments to Afghanistan in 2016 and a recent deployment to Iraq in 2019. He just returned to his wife and three kids from the Iraq deployment and was set to begin new orders on April 1.

Those orders were put on hold because of COVID-19. Then some of the family’s financial struggles at home surfaced and he started worrying about paying his bills. He was already behind because the military had mistakenly paid him too much and they garnished part of his recent checks. He started looking at possible overseas contracts—anything to be able to pay his bills.

He received a list of resources from the Army National Guard and found Operation Homefront. He applied  to the Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program and was relieved to receive the support. Thanks to our generous donors, Nathan was able to pay more than $3,300 in rent and utilities.

“Operation Homefront has really helped me pull myself out of that hole,” he said. “It could have spun way more out of control than it did. To the donors being able to supply the funds, I don’t have words for it. It really did make all the difference in the world for me and my family. We didn’t lose the house or have utilities shut off.”

Nathan said now he will not have to worry about whether his family is taken care of as he proceeds to St. Louis on orders to help Missouri in their fight against the novel coronavirus.

“At this point, I’ve secured these orders. Operation Homefront really was that conduit, that in between piece. I got home from Iraq and due to this worldwide pandemic, I couldn’t go straight to work. Being the sole provider with three kids, I just did not know where to turn, and Operation Homefront and your donors stepped up. They provided that buffer and made all the difference, especially for my wife and kids.”

The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on our nation’s military families.  Over the past two months, Operation Homefront has seen a significant increase in requests for financial assistance. We are doing our best to serve those who have been there for us in our country’s time of need. It’s our turn to be there for them. The military families we seek to serve need us now, more than ever. View a message from our CEO to learn more or visit our website and give to a current need today!

If you’re a military family in need of assistance, please go to www.operationhomefront.org and click on Get Help Now.

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A shining example of Operation Homefront’s core values, Yvette performs with excellence and gratitude. She’s an inspiration to Operation Homefront’s Region 4 staff and volunteers, as well as to her family who serve alongside her.

It is National Yvette Peterson has been a superb volunteer with Operation Homefront for five years. The decision to volunteer came after she and her husband, a medically retired soldier, were awarded a mortgage-free home in 2013, through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program.

“We decided that we needed to help other military families,” Peterson said. “Going through Operation Homefront, we would be able to be a part of something on greater scales than we could ever do on our own.”

Yvette has made a significant impact since joining the Operation Homefront volunteer force. She planned, organized, and executed the annual Back-to-School Brigade event at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2019, distributing 1,000 backpacks full of school supplies to military children. Yvette received the shipment of backpacks, collected donated school supplies from 10 Dollar Tree stores, and set up the Fort Bragg event.

Yvette also successfully distributed 22 pallets of Procter and Gamble products to military families in Fayetteville, NC, despite multiple logistical hurdles. Her “can do” attitude resulted in a seamless Holiday Meals for Military in Fayetteville that included visits with Santa, toy distribution, and holiday crafts for 265 families.

In order to serve as many military families as possible, Yvette has developed strong relationships with Dollar Tree and Walmart store managers and their staff. She says she appreciates the opportunity to help families who are in stressful positions she can relate to.

“It’s awesome to be able to be a part of an organization that strives to help military families,” she said. “As the wife of a medically retired Army veteran, I know all too well that it can be a struggle both financially and emotionally.”

A shining example of Operation Homefront’s core values, Yvette performs with excellence and gratitude. She’s an inspiration to Operation Homefront’s Region 4 staff and volunteers, as well as to her family who serve alongside her.

Operation Homefront wishes to thank our volunteers all they do for us. Volunteers help bring both the “what we do” and “why we do it” aspects of our mission to life. Simply put, you help build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities – OUR communities – they have worked so hard to protect. 

Thank you for all you have done, continue to do, and will do for our service members and the families that serve alongside them. They are counting on us and we are proud to say WE DELIVER!

Want to know more about how you can get involved with Operation Homefront? Visit our Get involved page here www.operationhomefront.org/getinvolved

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We are pleased to share with you today some words from our President and CEO, John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.) on this year’s Military Child of the Year Awards recipients and why it so important to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our military children and why we want to make this moment as special as possible for our 2020 recipients at this challenging time:

Although we, as a nation, are still struggling with the unprecedented challenges brought on by a global pandemic, it is important for all to look for bright spots to show the promise of a brighter future. At Operation Homefront, I don’t need to look any farther than this year’s honorees for our Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards.

These prestigious awards are designed to recognize the amazing achievements of seven of our nation’s military teenagers who have excelled at home, in school, and in their communities through their leadership, volunteerism, scholarship, and extracurricular involvement, all while working with parental deployments, relocations, and the many other challenges that often characterize military family life.

Normally, we would have had the opportunity to recognize our award winners at our “big event” – our annual gala – held every April, in Arlington, Virginia. However, because of COVID-19, and the need to do our part to ensure the safety of all our guests and to comply with the federal and state public health guidelines, I canceled this year’s celebration.

That said, I knew we couldn’t sit idly by and let an opportunity to showcase some exceptional young people pass so I am proud to say that the show will go on with our virtual celebration of these extraordinary representatives of the millions of military kids who serve our great nation alongside their parents.

All at Operation Homefront firmly believe taking time to celebrate our MCOY winners – no matter the venue or platform – is a “must do” type event. Having grown up in a military family, and after serving for over 27 years in the Air Force, I understand the challenges that our military families experience. Faced with the uncertainty of frequent short- or no-notice moves and deployments, it can be difficult for military kids to focus in school, to feel connected to their community, and to develop close friendships. That is why I believe it so important to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our military children and why Operation Homefront wants to make this moment as special as possible for our recipients.

President and CEO, John I. Pray, at our MCOY gala in 2019. Normally, we would have had the opportunity to recognize our award winners at our “big event” – our annual gala – held every April, in Arlington, Virginia. However, because of COVID-19, and the need to do our part to ensure the safety of all our guests and to comply with the federal and state public health guidelines, we canceled this year’s in-person celebration. However, we believe taking time to celebrate our MCOY winners – no matter the venue or platform – is a “must do” type event.

The accomplishments of our 2020 group, like all our previous winners, is in a word – impressive. Our judges selected the seven honorees from a very competitive field of more than 400 nominees. The seven represent each branch of service and our Innovation Award recipient. I like to refer to them as the “Magnificent Seven.”

Our 2020 MCOY winners are:

Kainath Kamil – Innovation Award
Fionnuala “Finn” Mahoney – Army
Niklas Cooper – Marine Corps
Miryam Smith — Navy
Samantha Grab — Air Force
Pierce Corson — Coast Guard
Kristina Lee — National Guard

 

Kainath, Finn, Niklas, Miryam, Samantha, Pierce, and Kristina all exemplify the spirit of selfless service that that not only improves lives in their communities but also offers hope for our future. They have logged over 2,080 volunteer hours in the past 12 months. Five of them are National Honor Society members, all of them take AP or dual college credit classes in school. Four are competitive athletes (swimming, volleyball, cross country, cheer) and five speak at least one language other than English.

They are caregivers to family members and leaders in sports and academia. They are ambassadors for mental health awareness, global issues, and the need for greater understanding of differences. They have used science and innovation to find solutions to world problems. Finn is even working with a team at the National Institutes of Health that is searching for a solution to COVID-19.

As we soak in all their achievements, there is little doubt why we must celebrate this very special and deserving group of military teens who represent that brighter future I noted earlier. Congratulations to all of you and to your families.

I would also like to recognize and extend a heartfelt thanks to our partners and supporters who have made our MCOY program possible:

• Our 2020 presenting sponsor, United Technologies (Pratt & Whitney); our Innovation Award sponsor, Booz Allen Hamilton; and our other event sponsors, Procter & Gamble, LaQuinta by Wyndham Hotels, PNC Bank, Veterans United Home Loans, Carnival Cruise Line, and Military Times

• Our MCOY judges, board members, OH staff and volunteers, and our two wonderful leaders the Military Child of the Year Award program, Jenny Valderas and Emily Miller.

The celebration continues as more stories and videos are coming – including congratulatory videos from John Heald of Carnival Cruise Line, and the country music sensation Runaway June, who were scheduled to perform. Also, while you may not meet our great MCOY recipients in person, you will get to hear the Magnificent Seven in their own words. So please stay tuned.

Please remember to share your congratulations and special messages with this year’s recipients at http://www.operationhomefront.org/mcoymessages.

View President and CEO, John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)’s message for the kick-off of virtual Military Child of the Year gala:

 

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Pierce Corson, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard, is dedicated to spreading mental health awareness for young people. The 17-year-old senior at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has conducted research published in a Harvard University-affiliated journal, and also donned a llama mascot costume for a parade while volunteering with a national nonprofit.

Coast Guard_Pierce Corson 1

That commitment, plus his leadership skills in academia and sports, were the top reasons that Pierce’s school counselor, volleyball coach and principal worked together to nominate him for the award. They are also traits found in the Corson family. He is the son of veteran Coast Guard Capt. Caleb Corson, who retired after 30 years of service, and Dr. Tyler Corson, a gerontologist. Pierce’s brother Roark was the 2018 MCOY recipient.

Pierce became interested in mental health issues due to his own struggles with stress from academic pressures, his father’s deployments, and nine family moves. He also saw stress in his friends at school.

He published a research project about mental health and stress among teens in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. Pierce also worked with the Virginia Department of Education committee to include mental health topics in the state standards of learning curriculum.

He has volunteered for more than three years with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Coastal Virginia affiliate, including serving as a panelist for NAMI’s Say it Out Loud program, which combats mental health stigma for teens.

Pierce loves learning languages. He is nearly fluent in Spanish and studied Mandarin at a local Chinese school where he met with his teacher for weekly tutoring and language exchange to help her learn English.

He was awarded a scholarship from the U.S. State Department and spent the summer studying Mandarin at Wenzao University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He said the flexibility he learned as a military child helped him succeed in his experiences abroad.

“I had to juggle attending classes for eight hours daily, multiple hours of homework, maintaining physical fitness for the upcoming volleyball season, and adjusting to a culture and lifestyle that was completely different to what I was used to,” Pierce said. “My saving grace ended up being the adaptability that I had acquired as a result of so many military moves. I was able to quickly find a rhythm in daily life and form strong habits and a social network that took a lot of the pressure off of me and allowed me to flourish for the duration of the scholarship.” Coast Guard_Pierce Corson 2

Pierce is a talented athlete who helps develop younger players on his volleyball team. He enjoys weightlifting, Chinese calligraphy, customizing shoes, speed-solving Rubik’s Cubes, and streaming Spanish and Mandarin TV shows. He plans on attending the University of Virginia next year as an Echols Scholar and pursue Chinese and International Relations.

Favorite quote: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” -from a poem by Dylan Thomas

Service/Leadership Highlights: 

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Volunteer
  • National Honor Society
  • STARTALK Volunteer
  • Tidewater Chinese School Volunteer
  • Andrew Food Bank Volunteer
  • Ocean Lakes HS Biology Club
  • Ocean Lakes HS Principal’s Student Advisory Board
  • Ocean Lakes HS Math and Science Academy Representative

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

Samantha Grab, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Air Force

Kristina Lee, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard

Kainath Kamil, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for Innovation

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As our 2020 Military Child of the Year for Innovation, Kainath Kamil, 16, wants to continue studying the genetic mechanisms of addiction—which means even more weekends with her fruit flies.

Innovation_Kainath Kamil 2

A student at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, California, Kainath believes in the transformative power of innovation. She has already been published in three research journals regarding brain cancer, genetic engineering, and stem cells. Kainath plans to dedicate her life to helping people through research.

“I plan to have a profession in medicine so I may make a difference in health care,” Kainath said. “This could mean becoming a surgeon and quite possibly the United States Surgeon General. This could also involve creating a biotech company specializing in nanotechnology. Whatever I do I hope to make a substantial impact on society.”

She is currently working on an addiction research project with the San Diego Biomedical Research Institute. She first became interested in the process of addiction while volunteering at a soup kitchen and taking part in their rehabilitation program.

Scientists are aware that certain genes can increase the likelihood of addiction. Kainath, through her intensive research on the RNA and DNA gene sequences of fruit flies, wants to find the genes that are responsible for synaptic regeneration so that a person’s brain will not develop an dependency on addictive substances.

Kainath is the daughter of Navy Cmdr. Mohammad Kamil and Ayesha. She has a brother, Khalif, 15. Kainath said her father is her inspiration. Last year, the family was supposed to move, which would have been the family’s fourth, but he took a hardship assignment in Bahrain for a year to make it easier for the children’s education. While he was gone, Kainath read a climate report about the Amazon burning and how greenhouse gases will damage the planet. She wanted to make her dad proud and used her passion for science to genetically modify the bacteria Micrococcus luteus to absorb carbon dioxide and methane.

“As a thank you for my dad’s sacrifice, and as a way to harness my scientific abilities for the greater good, I conduct scientific research in hopes of discovering a breakthrough,” Kainath said.

In addition to her academic research, Kainath is a leader in many organizations in her community. She is the founder and president of the San Diego Youth Environmental Association. She raised $3,000 for the restoration of rainforests across the world. Her nonprofit organizes cleanups and builds greenhouses from plastic bottles. Recently, they made pouches for kangaroos orphaned by Australian fires.Innovation_Kainath Kamil_1

Over the past three years, Kainath has partnered with the San Diego Blood Bank and organized three blood drives at her high school which in total has received 150 donors.

Kainath also founded SoCal’s chapter of Students Together Assisting Refugees. She personally received a letter of commendation from CARE for clothing donations and Letters of Hope.

Favorite Quote: “Hands filled with stones cannot carry gold.” – Oprah Winfrey

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Founder/President San Diego Youth Environmental Association
  • Emperor Science Award (Cancer Research)
  • TEDx Speaker: February 2020
  • Battered Women’s Shelter Volunteer (SEED India)
  • Genius Olympiad (2019): Gold Medal in Science
  • Naval Medical Center: Camp Pendleton S2M2 Intern
  • Prudential Service Award/ President’s Service Award
  • UCSD Mentorship Assistance Program

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

Samantha Grab, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Air Force

Kristina Lee, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard

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Kristina Lee, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the National Guard, has worn the crown as Ohio’s Miss Teen Buckeye State, and she sported a different look when she campaigned for office at a SkillsUSA State Leadership Conference.

National Guard_Kristina Lee 1

The 18-year-old senior at Lee Preparatory High School and Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion, Ohio, had two black eyes, caused by a basilar skull fracture received when sparring with pugil sticks in her school’s criminal justice lab. She rolled with the look – referring to herself in her campaign speech as the raccoon in the room – and was elected as a regional officer.

It’s one example of how the student leader and honor student chooses perseverance in the face of adversity, including her brother’s death after a yearlong illness and overcoming PTSD after experiencing a violent crime in 2018.

At school, Kristina distinguishes herself in classwork and as a leader as she pursues dual tracks. She’s an honor student in academics at Lee Prep School, while at a career technical school, she excels in criminal justice and construction trades.

After high school, Kristina plans to continue on multiple tracks. She wants to serve an apprenticeship to become a heavy-equipment operator and join the Air National Guard to become a paramedic.

“I’ve always wanted to be a civil servant but realize that it’s hard to live on a civil servant’s salary. … With the help of a construction job, I will be able to afford to pursue a military/EMT/paramedic career as well,” she said. “Maybe further down the road, I would like to pursue political leadership, but I don’t want to do that until I have some real-life experience.”

Being a military child helped her develop a servant’s heart, she said.

“Military kids have the hearts and minds to serve others whether it be in their schools, communities, or even just their homes,” Kristina said. “This may be because they model after their military parents who have to both serve and sacrifice daily.”

Kristina amassed more than 500 volunteer hours in the past year, including organizing a Drug Free, Hire Me! rally that attracted over 600 students for a daylong event, which she also emceed. She also planned and executed a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser to benefit survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Kristina is the sixth of the eight children of Tammy and Col. Andrew Lee, a physician and a medical group commander in the Ohio Air National Guard. During her father’s deployments and trainings, Kristina helps her mom with her two younger brothers, including one with developmental delays who is nonverbal.

She communicates with him using sign language, which she also uses in volunteer work with special-needs children at her church through a ministry called PB&J, Precious & Beloved by Jesus.National Guard_Kristina Lee 2

In her spare time, Kristina enjoys drawing and painting, reading, swimming, obstacle course 5Ks, and lawn work.

Favorite quote: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’ ” – Erma Bombeck

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Construction Trades Academy Foreman
  • Angel Tree
  • SkillsUSA State Leadership Conference Officer
  • National Technical Honor Society President
  • National American Miss (NAM) Heart of Service state champion
  • SkillsUSA President
  • Honor Flight
  • Wings & Wheels

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

Samantha Grab, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Air Force

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