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Achieving your degree is a tremendous accomplishment. Many times, military spouses are not able to complete their education due to the inherent challenges of military life – multiple moves, deployments, injuries, children’s needs, etc. Sarah Gaul’s dream of completing a bachelor’s degree will finally come true, thanks to a full-tuition scholarship from Southern New Hampshire University, presented at Operation Homefront’s June 2018 Homefront Celebration in Anchorage, Alaska, a military spouse appreciation event that was a bright spot during a rough period in Sarah’s life.

Sarah shares her story with our Homefront Celebration guests.

Grateful that SNHU’s military-friendly programs are flexible, Sarah will complete her education at her own pace because the former Coast Guard reservist just recently completed breast cancer treatment after an October 2017 diagnosis, works part time, and has three active sons with her husband, Jeramy, who medically retired from the Coast Guard in June 2018.

In fact, all five family members started new schools this fall. Sarah, who has sewn all her life and started working in a quilt shop in May 2018, is majoring in fashion merchandising and management and digital photography. Jeramy is in the geomatics program at University of Alaska Anchorage. Their oldest son, Frank, 14, just started high school. Middle son Sean, 11, entered middle school, and their youngest, Henry, 5, started kindergarten.

Sarah said they will need to support each other through some inevitable school-related stress because she still has “chemo brain” from her cancer treatment which required multiple surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy. Their older two boys are on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. And Jeramy has experienced several traumatic brain injuries leading to his medical retirement. The Veterans Affairs Department rated his disability at 100 percent. Jeramy’s initial TBI happened 21 years ago during a training accident while in the Washington National Guard. A tank hatch slammed shut on his head. “He’s lucky to be alive,” Sarah said, adding that he was wearing a helmet. He suffered a broken jaw. Later on multiple occasions, Jeramy hit his head while on Coast Guard boats, and fell down a ladder well.

Suffice it to say that life since her diagnosis and Jeramy’s retirement, with the whole family in different schools, has been “just crazy,” as Sarah puts it. That’s why she greatly enjoyed a night out to herself at the Homefront Celebration. She sat with SNHU representatives and students who shared their perspectives on balancing school, work and home responsibilities. Operation Homefront (OH) also treated attendees, including many Army and Air Force spouses, to a catered dinner, dancing and prizes.

“Even 20 minutes to myself is a wonderful thing,”-Sarah says, of her journey as survivor, student, mom and military spouse.

“It was so much fun,” said Sarah, who follows OH on Facebook, and had participated previously in OH’s Back-to-School Brigade and Holiday Toy Drive events. “It was an amazing night. They took great care of us. The gift bags were just stuffed full of things.”

Sarah had a good time at the event even though she feels “so self-conscious now” because the chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair. “Even 20 minutes to myself is a wonderful thing,” she said, adding that it was nice to find something to do for herself because she can’t get her hair done, or go for a back massage because she can’t lie on the table until she’s fully recovered from her surgeries.

“I’m excited to get back into school and start learning again.”

Sarah said the scholarship was the “ultimate prize” because without it, she would have had to delay returning to school until after their kids graduated from college. “Financially, there’s no way that we could afford for me to go back to school. I had really just put going back to school out of my mind.”

Now she can work on her classes as she finds time. “We’re teaching our kids how important education is,” Sarah said. “Not having that degree over the years has been tough for me.” She has wished she had a degree because many employers require one even for entry-level work, and it will improve her job prospects after being a stay-at-home mom for 14 years, an experience she “would not trade … for anything.”

It was not for lack of trying that Sarah has been unable to finish her degree. It’s just one of the many challenges and sacrifices that comes with the territory of serving in the military. She had previously taken online courses through American Military University, but could not continue because Jeramy went to a Coast Guard cutter in the Bering Sea, while she took care of the kids.

Sarah enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve in 1998. Jeramy, who had been serving in the Washington National Guard, later switched into the Coast Guard Reserve. They married in 2001, not long before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Because of 9/11, they both got called to active duty, and the Coast Guard sent them to different places even though they were in the same unit. They didn’t see each other for three months. Jeramy went to an electronic support unit in Seattle; Sarah went to the marine safety office, conducting vessel safety inspections. Once she got pregnant with their oldest in 2003, she continued some inspections, but had to stop others because of the environmental risk.

Frank was born in 2004, at about the same time her six years of active drilling was ending. She got out because of her concern that as a dual military couple, they would have child care issues. In 2005, Jeramy accepted an active-duty Coast Guard assignment that moved them from Seattle to Anchorage.

Sarah and family in 2017.

“Having transferred and moved as much as we have as a military family, it’s not easy,” Sarah said.

With a degree in fashion merchandising and management and digital photography skills, Sarah can help retailers with buying decisions, staying relevant in the economy, and keeping customers coming back. “I’m excited to get back into school and start learning again. Mentally for me, I think it will help with my chemo brain … to keep my brain engaged.”


Thank you Southern New Hampshire University for supporting our military spouses and helping us host Homefront Celebrations across the USA and for helping our military spouses realize their education goals.

More events are planned in the future so keep an eye out on our events page or follow us on Facebook to see announcements about this and other events.

Get educated about risk factors for Breast Cancer, prevention and early detection and more here.

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“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Dr. Suess

We all know military kids grow up in a unique world compared to many of their peers. Every year, we help bring military kids into the spotlight and recognize them for their service as a member of a military family.

Operation Homefront is happy to announce that nominations are now open for the 2019 Military Child of the Year® awards.

Now in its 11th year, our prestigious award will recognize 7 outstanding young people ages 13 to 18. Anyone can nominate…parents, teachers, extended family, clergy, friends or distant admirers.

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Here are the details:

Six military children will be awarded the Military Child of the Year Award, one for each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their achievements while facing the challenges of military family life. The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by our friends at Booz Allen Hamilton.

To give you an idea of some of those challenges, the average Military Child of the Year® Award: Recipients of the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award:

  • experienced a change of station a combined 29 times;
  • lived through 225 months of deployments; and
  • have logged almost 3,000 volunteer hours in the 12 months before their nominations.

Some of our past Military Child of the Year® award recipients have dealt with serious and life threatening health issues, suffered loss, become caregivers to wounded parents, or stepped up in major ways to support their families through deployments and multiple relocations.  All the while, achieving excellence in school, sports, theatre and/or music, holding leadership positions in school and community groups, and volunteering tremendous hours to causes that impact their community and beyond.

You can read more about past recipients here.

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The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge. Last year’s recipient developed an idea to help severe allergy sufferers, especially young children, administer medication more easily. Another recipient built, planted, maintained and harvested 22 raised vegetable gardens at low-income daycare centers and shelters in their local community, and another provided accessibility ramps and other home modifications to children’s homes, which are not covered by Tricare, the military health insurance .

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All MCOY award recipients will receive $10,000 and a trip to DC for our special awards gala (see pics from last year). In addition, the Innovation Award will get to meet and work directly with members from Booz Allen Hamilton to help advance their project.

Nominate today your favorite military kid today!  Help us promote it on Facebook and Twitter so we can reach as many families as possible.  Use #MCOY2019 to join the conversation. Deadline to apply is Dec. 5, 2018.

And stay tuned for more news! We’ll announce the first round of semi-finalists in January!

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Another summer comes to a close and a new school year begins. For you lucky ones not going back until after Labor Day…enjoy some sun for us! But no matter when you start back, we have a message for you:

You’ve Got This!

These military kids from our BTSB event at Fort Campbell are ready to go!

 

We also have another message: Thank you.

 

 

Thank you to our military families for joining us at our Back-to-School Brigade® events at more than 60 locations across the USA in July and August.  Getting to meet all of you is one of our greatest joys.  Seeing some of you again is like a get together with friends.

 

Back-to-School Brigade at JBER Alaska served 200 military children.

Our Mid-Atlantic Field Office welcomed 1,800 military children at their events…1,000 at Norfolk alone.

These smiles! Priceless!

Our TNKY Field Office served 1,000 military children at Fort Campbell, and another 250 at Fort Knox.

No better feeling in the world than to know you made a child smile.

 

Thank you to our national partners Dollar Tree and SAIC who have been steadfast supporters of military families through our Back-to-School Brigade program. Dollar Tree, our partner for 10 years, collected donated supplies at over 6,000 stores nationwide over the course of the program.

 

Dollar Tree staff came out to help at BTSB Norfolk.

 

Thanks to these amazing organizations, our program just keeps getting better and better.

 

SAIC volunteers in Kansas City stuffed more than 300 backpacks full of school supplies for military kids in the Kansas/Missouri area.

We would also like to thank all of the community organizations around the country that attended our events and brought information and resources to our military families.

Thank you to our volunteers.  These events require a ton of planning and man-hours, and you are the reason that we can host over 60 events nationwide to support thousands more families at bases from Maine to Alaska, Hawaii to Idaho, and everywhere in between.

 

Our volunteers make the magic happen. Here are some of our friends at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Volunteers of all ages helped out at our events, such as this family team from Colorado Springs, CO.

 

You can find all BTSB2018 albums on our Flickr page.  We are still receiving and uploading event images, so please check back if you do not see your even yet.

Get out those cameras and snap your best “Back-to-School” image because we still have more fun waiting. Our friends at Procter & Gamble invite you to celebrate the start of the school year by sending your child’s “First Day of School” photo for a chance to win a $150 Amazon Gift Card! Go to https://startstrongpg.com/firstday for details and official rules. Deadline to enter is Sept. 7. Thank you to our friends at Procter & Gamble for celebrating military kids!

Have a GREAT school year!

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Deb Mullinex (left) with our Director of Volunteers, Charlotte Merriam (middle) and volunteer captain, Meleeza Brown (left). Deb and Meleeza are both long term volunteers with Operation Homefront.

Giving, caring and sharing is at the heart of every Operation Homefront (OH) volunteer and Deb Mullinax is a great example of that generous spirit. Deb has been volunteering for OH for over 16 years, first as a Navy spouse in Norfolk, Virginia, and now as a team captain in Jacksonville, Florida. She plans to continue helping military families because she remembers what it was like for her as a military child.

“I saw my mother struggle with three kids being military,” Deb said.  “I knew what it was like for her, and I know it hasn’t changed.  Until my father made officer, it was really hard.”  Deb’s father retired from the Navy after 30 years.

In October, Deb’s husband, Max, also retired from the Navy as a master chief with 30 years of service, including 26 years of sea duty.  She and Max married in 1992, were stationed in Norfolk for over 20 years, and moved to Florida in 2012.

The next event Deb helps with will be the Back-to-School Brigade (BTSB).  Each summer, near military bases across the country, OH distributes backpacks filled with most of the school supplies military children need to succeed in school. The supplies are generously donated by OH partners, like Dollar Tree, whose customers support the program at thousands of stores nationwide.  Since 2008, OH’s BTSB program has distributed over 300,000 backpacks to military families, saving them money and hassle because they often face special challenges such as frequent relocations and deployments.

Deb adores seeing the kids’ faces light up.  But even more, “I like to see the look of the young parent that can’t afford to buy stuff,” she said.  “The relief of the sailors themselves. That’s my satisfaction.  And that’s my husband’s satisfaction.”

Deb said it’s even harder for today’s parents because schools give them a two-page list of items their kids are supposed to bring.  “If you have a family of three or four, you cannot do it on their budget,” Deb said.  “Their pay has not gone up much at all.”

When military families get transferred to a new base, they are only allowed to bring belongings weighing a certain amount, taking up a certain amount of space, so sometimes they must leave behind items such as backpacks and their contents, Deb said.

Junior enlisted families receive priority registering for BTSB, for children 5 and up.  Not wanting to leave out kids under 5, Deb put together sacks for little ones too young to receive a backpack, using drawstring bags donated by Whataburger and various items she had left over from previous collections.  “They were ecstatic over it,” she said.  “They got their own ‘backpack.’  They wanted their picture taken with it and everything.  That was awesome.”

In early July, Deb contacts Dollar Tree store managers to arrange supply pickups.  With 10 stores to collect from, Deb might drive 100 miles or more over two days, filling their truck, at personal expense.  The couple has learned to live with stacks and piles of donated goods temporarily stored at their home.  The night before the BTSB event, Deb and Max arrive at the rec center to set up tables and organize.

Deb often works with another long-time OH volunteer team captain, Meleeza Brown, an assistant manager at Navy Federal Credit Union.  “I love doing it,” said Meleeza, whose husband retired from the Navy 18 years ago as an E-6.  “I really love to give back to the military family.”

Meleeza will keep volunteering because she remembers tight budgets when her husband was an E-3.  “We’ve been there — I know how it is.”  She can relate because the Browns have three grown children.  “When it’s time for back to school, when you don’t have enough to buy everything the kids need … it’s kind of difficult.”

Deb and Meleeza also help recruit and train OH volunteers, and assist with other Operation Homefront programs, including Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Meals for Military (HMFM), which provide toys and holiday meal ingredients to service members and their families.

“I see that E-1, E-2, E-3 parent … excited that they got either food or what they need for their kids’ supplies,” Deb said.  “Just to see the relief on the parent’s face — my kid’s going to get a bike, my kid’s going to get that basketball.  When they come to pick up a meal, they don’t care what’s in it — they have something. … That’s why I do it. This is my passion.”


Registration for 2018 Back-to-School Brigade is now open! Check out our Events page to see if there is a Back-to-School Brigade event in your area. If you don’t see an event, thanks to our partnership with Dollar Tree, free school supplies may be available through your local FRG or participating organization. Be sure to build and/or check your profile for new events. IMPORTANT: If you already have a registration profile built, please make sure all information is up-to-date, especially your child’s grade, before you register.

You can also help support our Back-to-School Brigade by donating school supplies at your local Dollar Tree or by donating to our current need, Help Provide Backpacks To Military Kids Across the U.S.

Thank You, Dollar Tree, for 10 years of supporting our Back-to-School Brigade!

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We asked YOU, our community, to join us in our #Mission2Honor and send messages of thanks to our military this Military Appreciation Month..and, boy, did you ever!

Messages poured in from all over the USA and even overseas. Today, we would like to share some of those messages so that our men and women in uniform, their families, and all who love our military can see how much our country appreciates their courage and commitment to protecting our country and our freedoms.

-As we all know FREEDOM ISNT FREE and we SO appreciate all the duty to our great nation that you give and your sacrifice of time away from your families and all the mental and physical sacrifices you are experiencing. Thank you with all of our heart!! You are always in our prayers!!Rita, Utah

-Mahalo to all our military members and their families for their dedication and sacrifice. As a military brat, spouse and mom, I know how difficult military life can be; yet, it can also be rewarding and gives you a special kind of pride that only military families share. I honor you all with aloha.-Lahela, Hawaii

-Thank you so much for your service! My name is Hannah, I am 8 years old, I am a member of American Heritage Girls in which I am currently learning about the military and I want to thank you for all you have done. Thank you for going away from your family and risking your life just to keep me safe. Thank you for helping make it possible to live in a country I can do anything in.Hannah, Delaware

-I would like to thank all members of our armed forces for caring for the greater good of our country with your dedication, sacrifice, and time away from loved ones. I truly appreciate each and every one of you and your families. Thank you for all you did, are doing and will do. You are the awesomeness of America.-Cathy, Wyoming

-I would like to give thanks to all of our service men and women, whose work effort has given a lot of support and gratitude to many nations! God bless our families and give honor and respect to those who serve!-Eric, Florida

-Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. The time away from loved ones and the effort put towards your job does not go unnoticed and we appreciate all you do. Stay strong and know you are thought about. God Bless you!!-Amber, Virginia

-Thank you so much for the sacrifice you have made for your country. I am sure there have been missed birthdays, holidays, and special events. I cannot thank you enough for your service! Please know you are appreciated.-Wilson Family, USN, Arizona

-Words will never be enough to truly convey the gratitude my family and I have for servicemen and women. Thank you and God bless!-Natasha, Ohio

There is still plenty of time to join in #Mission2Honor and send your words of thanks and encouragement to our military families. You can submit your message here.

Operation Homefront has many events planned this summer to give back to our military families. Click here to learn more about how you can get involved.

Thank you for your support!

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As about 3.6 million high school students graduate this year, we checked in with one of our Military Child of the Year® mothers about her emptying “nest,” and her youngest daughter’s college plans.

Moira Jablon-Bernstein, mother of 2017 MCOY Innovation Award recipient Sophie Bernstein, says she and her husband, Navy Reserve Capt. Brad Bernstein, played a role in raising three high-achieving children, but in the end, they are responsible for their own success.

Sophie, a graduating senior in St. Louis, applied to several top schools and decided to attend University of Missouri-Kansas City this fall. Under its B.A./M.D. program, she will graduate in six years with both a bachelor’s and a doctor of medicine degree. Sophie received the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Innovation Award, which is presented by Booz Allen Hamilton, for starting Grow Healthy, an organization that has planted more than two dozen gardens at preschools and daycare centers in St. Louis. These gardens help address issues like hunger, childhood obesity and the shortage of nutritious, fresh produce available in low-income neighborhoods.

After receiving the honor, which includes a $10,000 scholarship, Sophie continued working with Booz Allen Hamilton interns to re-engineer the Grow Healthy website, www.growhealthy.co where volunteers can sign up to help maintain gardens or apply to host one. “It was really neat what they did” together, Moira said. “I think it was really mutually beneficial.”

Sophie received the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Innovation Award, which is presented by Booz Allen Hamilton, for starting Grow Healthy, an organization that has planted more than two dozen gardens at preschools and daycare centers in St. Louis

Sophie is looking forward to seeing the project grow this summer, and then passing it on as she goes on to college.

Sophie’s older sister, Simone, is in the Navy and in her third year of medical school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., through the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program. She will continue serving in the Navy after graduating. Sophie’s older brother, Jake, works for Google in Japan.

Moira used to work as a career counselor, and is now a part-time fitness instructor, teaching about 20 classes a week at community centers, corporations and universities. She recommends that parents who want to help their children do well in school and go to college must identify their kids’ strengths, and then help them achieve within their gifts, whether it’s in theater, compassion for helping others, science and math or other subjects. In their case, that meant not having computer games in the house, going to the library regularly, and limiting television. “We were just really focused on what we value, and what’s important to our family,” she said.

While the Bernsteins made academic education a priority, they also emphasized learning about the military and other types of service. “My husband’s philosophy has always been we give back to our community and to our nation,” Moira said. “For Sophie, that was the inspiration for the gardens.”

When Sophie received the MCOY award, “it was incredible,” Moira said. “It was wonderful on so many levels.” Moira appreciated that Sophie was honored for her work on the gardens project, and gained the opportunity to expand the initiative.

When traveling, the Bernstein family would make a point to visit military bases because they felt it was important for the kids to be around service members. “We made an effort to make the kids realize this is something their dad has taken on,” Moira said. “We tried to visit and expose our kids to as much military history as we can,” such as military museums so they understood and appreciated the U.S. armed services’ contributions.

“All three of my kids are really proud of their dad and to know that he’s giving back,” Moira said. “I just think there’s no greater gift in life.”

Moira Jablon-Bernstein(left), mother of 2017 MCOY Innovation Award recipient Sophie Bernstein (middle) visiting Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, on Capitol Hill.


Learn more about Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year Award program. #MCOY2018

Operation Homefront has joined with Procter and Gamble to promote the “Start Strong, Stay Strong” campaign, offering military moms a network of support – online and in commissaries and exchanges around the world – so they may connect with their communities, explore local events and discover motivational stories.  Whether they are welcoming a new child into the home, managing day-to-day household needs through relocations, adjusting to family life with a wounded veteran, or settling into new schools and communities, P&G and Operation Homefront are here to help military moms start strong and stay strong throughout their service to our country.  Moms can view a special video message from Melissa Stockwell about the campaign. Learn more at StartStrongPG.com.

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When parents doing the best they can to raise their kids need advice, they may consult friends and family, books and blogs, pediatricians and podcasts. The quality of the advice depends on the provider. Authors and doctors may offer professional credentials or even scientific evidence to support their guidance, with or without firsthand knowledge. Siblings and coworkers may base their suggestions on little more than good intentions.

That’s why some of the best advice may come from experienced mothers who are bringing up high achievers, such as the Military Child of the Year® recipients. Raising military children involves some unique challenges, including frequently changing schools, doctors and communities.

Jessica McGrath, whose older son, Alexander, was the 2017 Navy Military Child of the Year Award recipient, has learned a lot about parenting from her family’s experience moving more than seven times. She and her husband, Navy Capt. Richard McGrath, also have a son in seventh grade, Zachary. Alexander is finishing his first at Yale University, and has arranged a summer internship with a member of the British Parliament’s House of Commons.

Jessica recommends some ways parents can help their children succeed:

Be involved in their lives. “The biggest thing is to be an engaged parent,” Jessica said. “It kind of sounds clichéd, but it is very specific to the military child because … of moving so often …” It might be all right for parents who live in the same community for 10 years or more to go on “autopilot” once the child has established friends and activities, she said, but military families face a different situation. As much as possible, research schools, pediatricians and neighborhoods to find the best fit for your child.

For kids who do not handle moving as well, it is even more important to be tuned in, she said. Whenever possible, talk with them about what’s going on. Help them facilitate change if necessary because you may not have time for the issue to resolve itself. “You don’t have that gift of years of time in that one duty station.”

Act as your child’s advocate. “You need to be an advocate for your child, but that can be very positive. It doesn’t have to be an advocate in a complaining sense,” Jessica said.

For example, advocating for your child might mean being aware of and familiar with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which requires states to ensure military kids have the same access to success as civilians, and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals. The compact addresses issues such as graduation requirements, records transfer and course placement.

It boils down to “making your child feel safe and happy and healthy in a new environment,” she said. Asking them “how can I help you learn to do it yourself?”

Tap into the local and military communities. “For a military child to be successful, it’s bloom where you’re planted,” Jessica said. They and their parents may not have had much, if any, control over where they moved, but they can make the most of what a community offers. “For this to really work though, you need support” from both the immediate family and the wider military family at the base or post. “You encourage them to get involved in this new community that you’re in,” whether that’s volunteering, joining teams or clubs, scouting, or whatever interests the child.

Getting involved helps the military children themselves, both in the moment and for future success, but also helps pave the way for other military children, she said. If they set a good example, it makes it that much easier for the community to accept the next military children who come along.

Jessica said another way to join the community is to take advantage of the wealth of information available among military families, and when appropriate, offer your own experiences. “Whatever it is you’re going through, someone has already done that.” In rural areas, Facebook groups of military families and spouses can be especially helpful, with members sometimes offering solutions within 20 minutes of posting. “I have always been amazed by the support,” she said.

Provide continuity. Continuing scouting, swimming, dance or other activities in each new community can help a child adapt, and gives a way to get to know kids who may become friends. An “anchor place,” somewhere you can return periodically, also helps. For the McGraths, it has been a family cabin in Maine. It could be a grandparent’s home, a friend’s place or just a favorite town.

Model how to take the initiative. “Lead by example,” she said. “We see a problem and you just fix it.” If someone needs assistance, your attitude should be “I don’t even know you, but let me drop what I’m doing and help you because I was there” too at one time. For example, Jessica and another spouse stepped in to take over the ombudsman’s responsibilities when that person became ill and had to bow out. The ombudsman is the liaison between the squadron and the ship’s command.

Teach that actions have consequences, and you control your actions. Whether it’s their own actions or someone else’s, decisions have a larger effect. “That’s, I think, the ultimate learning experience,” Jessica said. “You’re empowering them.” If a student at school got in trouble, talk about factors that may have contributed. Discuss empathy. If a friend got into college, discuss the many steps that led to that good news.

Develop a positive relationship with your kids. Jessica said if she has a parenting super power, it’s probably investing the time required for closeness and easy rapport with her sons. “They feel comfortable taking to me, and telling me their problems but also their successes, and us working together as a team.”

Realize that no two children are the same. You can strengthen a child’s attributes, and they each have their own individual qualities. Alex finds and pursues his own opportunities with tenacity. She doesn’t find them for him. But she did teach him social skills, and to always be polite, which helped him interact in ways that led to positive outcomes. “He has this inner drive that I didn’t give him,” she said. “My gift was maybe getting your foot in the door.”

Focus on the positive. Jessica acknowledges that the moving process itself isn’t always fun, but says the pros can outweigh the cons. “It builds your character, it builds resiliency. You become a better person, and basically, that sets you up to be a very successful adult.”

Meeting various challenges gives you strength to draw upon, teaches you what works and what doesn’t, and even gives you good conversation starters, she said. “Non-military kids don’t always get that opportunity, which I actually think is a blessing to learn and grow.”

Take care of yourself. Explore classes at local community colleges. Jessica, who graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in management and retail buying, has worked in her field, but also reinvented herself numerous times. She worked for a company that sells mutual funds and insurance, for an attorney and for the Navy Exchange. She volunteered in advocacy for military families, helping with family readiness groups and CORE, or Continuum of Resource Education, which provides seminars and volunteers dedicated to enriching Navy spouses and families. Later, Jessica discovered a love for art and took classes in metalsmithing and photography. She is now a designer at the Baltimore Jewelry Center.

Richard McGrath, a former Navy pilot, is a professor of operations research at the Naval Academy.

Aside from being personally proud to see Alexander’s hard work pay off when he received the MCOY award, Jessica said it was even more special and meaningful knowing that he represents many other military children, “validating their breadth of experience, the resiliency of the military child.” Alex is friends with another 2017 MCOY award recipient, Henderson Heussner, who also attends Yale. Jessica said she’s glad the two of them share a common bond and background from their military upbringing.

“Just to see what a military child can accomplish is such an amazing, rewarding thing,” she said. “I love Operation Homefront and everything that they do.”

Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making the Military Child of the Year Award program 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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