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It is our honor to announce the recipients of the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award.

“These seven award recipients are among the best of their generation in terms of scholarship and service to their communities.  What is even more remarkable is that they make a profound difference in the lives of others and perform spectacularly in the classroom all while demonstrating resiliency in the face of the challenges inherent in military life,” said Brig. Gen. (ret.) John I. Pray Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “We had nearly 400 nominees for the ninth annual Military Child of the Year® Awards who personified resiliency, leadership, achievement, and strength of character. Their families, their communities, and our staff, volunteers, and corporate partners at Operation Homefront are justifiably very proud of them.”

Without further ado, here are they are!

 

Henderson Heussner, Army Military Child of the Year® Award

for-website-army-henderson-heussner-225-x-281-pixelsHenderson’s family moved to Florida from Colorado as his father was deployed to Afghanistan and as the family was caring for Henderson’s terminally ill grandfather. Henderson, recipient of the 2017 Army Military Child of the Year® Award, shouldered the emotional burden and set a leadership-by-example standard for his peers. A student-athlete and member of the Estero High School varsity baseball team – who worked tirelessly to rebuild his strength after he suffered two broken vertebrae during his sophomore year – Henderson spent many hours alone in the batting cage in August 2016 in the sweltering Florida heat. He was not alone for long because he led one teammate after another to join him in putting forth the same spare-time voluntary pursuit of excellence. That is but one example of Henderson’s leadership and can-do spirit. Henderson also devoted 240 volunteer hours in the year leading up to his nomination as a tutor and mentor for at-risk children and teens at the nonprofit New Horizons of Southwest Florida. Henderson, a onetime American Legion Boys State delegate and West Point Summer Leadership Experience participant, also served multiple terms as class president and as Student Government president. He has spent hundreds of hours as a youth group leader, Sports Camp counselor and Sunday School teacher at Summit Church.

 

Alexander McGrath, Navy Military Child of the Year® Award

for-website-navy-alexander-mcgrath-225-x-281-pixelsAlexander McGrath, the 2017 Navy Military Child of the Year® Award recipient, in addition to spending time with his friends, spends some of his spare time reading U.S. Supreme Court opinions as well as books about the U.S. Constitution. It is a fitting activity for this 17-year-old Severna Park Senior High School senior, who has established a laudable track record of influencing public policy in the state of Maryland. As first vice president of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, which represents more than 80,000 county students at all levels of government, Alexander organized 700 students to lobby in favor of three education reform bills that would come before the Maryland General Assembly, which is the name of Maryland’s state legislature. He instructed his peers on the legislative process and on the effective use of talking points. He also arranged meetings between the hundreds of public school students and state lawmakers. Ultimately, all three bills got to committee and two became law. Alexander has long advocated on behalf of students from military families as well, personally bringing the needs of military children, notably those needs protected under the Interstate Military Compact, to the forefront of the Maryland State Board of Education’s attention.

 

Jackson Beatty, Marine Corps Military Child of the Year® Award

for-website-marine-corps-jackson-beatty-225-x-281-pixelsJackson Beatty is an 18-year-old senior at Lejeune High School and recipient of the 2017 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year® Award. He began studying Kenpo karate at the age of 4 and achieved his black belt at 16. He has served as captain of the high school wrestling team. He competed at the 2017 North Carolina State Wrestling Championships and placed third in the 1A 106-pound weight class. He has qualified for the State Championship for the last three years and that was his best finish. He has been captain of the Marching Band drumline. He has a near-perfect GPA and has an outstanding track record of volunteerism, thusly giving back to the community, especially to children. Jackson has achieved these milestones through his skeletal dysplasia, a condition which hampers the growth and development of bones and joints. Working in conjunction with the Semper Fi Fund, which serves the children of wounded warriors, Jackson has been a mentor to other students participating in the Outdoor Odyssey Leadership Academy. Jackson is a Lejeune High School Band Booster, raising money for competition and band necessities. Jackson teaches karate to children in his spare time at Wright’s Mixed Martial Arts.

 

Jamal Braxton, Air Force Military Child of the Year® Award

for-website-air-force-jamal-braxton-225-x-281-pixelsVarsity swimming. Varsity cross country. Varsity outdoor track and field.  Jamal Braxton, the 2017 Air Force Military Child of the Year® Award recipient and future United States Air Force Academy Class of 2021 cadet, has been an achiever in them all.  This 18-year-old senior at Northridge High School in Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is distinguished, above all, by his selfless service to others. Jamal fills numerous leadership positions at the Red Cross, including Northern Utah Youth Co-Chair for Services to Armed Forces, Northern Utah Youth Co-Chair for International Services, Student Staff for Red Cross Leadership Development Camp, Member for the American Red Cross of Northern Utah Board of Directors, and the Northern Utah Youth Co-President. In these capacities, Jamal oversees monthly veteran house visits, youth group and leadership group meetings, numerous activities related to the armed forces, the recruitment of future Red Cross Youth Services leaders, and numerous fundraisers, including the International Measles & Rubella initiative fundraiser. He also educates youth on International Humanitarian Law. Serving military families abroad as well as domestically, Jamal earned the Commander’s Leadership Award from the 52nd Fighter Wing Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, in 2013 and in 2014. Jamal in the U.S. and overseas has been a champion for the nonprofit New Eyes for the Needy.

 

Molly Frey, National Guard Military Child of the Year® Award

for-website-national-guard-molly-frey-225-x-281-pixelsAlthough only 16, Molly Frey is a senior at Pickerington High School North in Pickerington, Ohio, and recipient of the 2017 National Guard Military Child of the Year® Award. She has been accepted to Capital University, where she will major in biology, with an emphasis on pre-med, and will play golf for the Capital Crusaders. For her academic excellence, Molly received a letter from President Barack Obama that read, in part, “Students like you will chart the course of our country’s unwritten history…” As a figure skater, dedicated to causes that benefit the troops, Molly and her coach in 2012 created the inaugural and annual figure skating show Tribute to the Troops, a program to honor the military and to collect donated items to send to deployed service members. She also raised funds and participated for five years in Skate for Hope, accumulating more than $6,000 for Breast Cancer research. Beyond the arts, Molly has served in the leadership group Students Serving Students, which is designed to improve character, bolster school climate, and organize events.

 

Mary Kate Cooper, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year® Award

for-website-coast-guard-mary-kate-cooper-225-x-281-pixelsMary Kate Cooper, the 2017 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year® Award recipient, is a 17-year-old junior at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va. A triple threat, Mary Kate is a scholar who is taking AP Calculus B/C as a junior and has a weighted 4.7 GPA. She is a star multi-sport athlete of national and international acclaim and a community activist who has devoted countless volunteer hours to the betterment of her peers and to strengthening a broader understanding of those with disabilities. That description does not even scratch the surface of Mary Kate’s life, which is practically the definition of resiliency. Mary Kate is a below-the-knee amputee from birth who has only known life with a prosthetic leg. She has transitioned from playing recreational soccer against able-bodied kids to competing at the highest level in Paralympic sports. In addition to earning All-American High School status in Track and Field from the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Olympic Committee, Mary has become a top swimmer, competing on the international level in the Can-Am Swimming Open. Mary Kate was one of the few athletes to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic Trials in more than one sport. While Mary Kate did not earn a spot on Team USA last year, in her best swimming event, she ranked 36th in the world.

 

Sophie Bernstein, Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton

for-website-innovation-sophie-bernstein-225-x-281-pixelsRecipient of the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation, Sophie Bernstein, a 17-year-old junior at Clayton High School in St. Louis, is passionate about food and about social justice. Sophie’s twin passions propelled her award-winning Innovation. Committed to improving the health of her community, Sophie has built, planted, maintained and harvested 22 raised vegetable gardens at low-income daycare centers and shelters in the St. Louis area. Sophie’s innovation has raised awareness of childhood hunger in the community, and it has increased the volume of fresh and healthy produce available at food banks and at child care facilities. Sophie had donated more than 13,570 pounds of produce to local food banks and to families in need by the time she was nominated for the award in the fall of 2016. Sophie’s project has been a hands-on learning lab for children as she has led 225 science technology engineering and math (STEM) botany and plant science workshops for young children throughout the year. In the process, students at low-income pre-schools are engaged in building, planting and maintaining produce gardens.

 

What’s next?

Each award recipient will receive $10,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C., for a special recognition gala on April 6, during which senior military leaders will present the awards. In addition to the $10,000 cash award, the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation award recipient will receive a mentorship by Booz Allen Hamilton employees to scale or to advance the recipient’s project.

We would like to express our thanks to our presenting sponsor for the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Awards Gala, United Technologies Corporation, along with sponsors Booz Allen Hamilton, Murphy-Goode Winery, La Quinta Inns & Suites, MidAtlanticBroadband, and the Military Times.

Check back with us as we shine a spotlight on our recipients over the next few weeks and stay tuned for details on how you can join us LIVE from the April 6th gala on our Facebook page.

Find out more about our Military Child of the Year®  Award program at www.militarychildoftheyear.org

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Operation Homefront is thrilled to announce the top 5 Finalists from each branch of service for the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award and the 6 Finalists for the second annual Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by Booz Allen Hamilton.

 

Meet our Finalists…

 

ARMY

Darrius Anderson, 17, Mansfield, TX

Alec Argueta, 17, El Paso, TX

Andrea Gamble, 17, APO AE

Hayley Hamblin, 18, Florissant, CO

Henderson Heussner, 18, Fort Myers, FL

 

AIR FORCE

Jamal Braxton, 18, Hill AFB, UT

Katherine Dever, 17, Kathleen, GA

Linda Goodson, 17, Triangle, VA

Jordyn McNeal, 10, Birmingham, AL

Benjamin Rawald, 14, Del Rio, TX

 

COAST GUARD

Mary Kate Cooper, 17, Fairfax, VA

Jessie Porter, 17, Bayamon, PR

Kira Walters, 14, Yorktown, VA

Cody Watson, 16, Tuttle, OK

Rachel Winburn, 17, Ketchikan, AK

 

MARINES

Jackson Beatty, 17, Camp Lejeune, NC

Brooke Gruber, 17, Jacksonville, NC

Sierra LeFlore, 17, San Marcos, CA

Jennifer Narvaez, 16, Hubert, NC

Thomas Russ, 17, Stafford, VA

 

NAVY

Alexis Bryant, 17, Virginia Beach, VA

Alexander McGrath, 17, Severna Park, MD

Evan Pittman,18, Phoenix, AZ

Isabelle Richards, 12, Jamul CA

Ethan Vicario, 17, Virginia Beach, VA

 

NATIONAL GUARD

Amelia Bailey, 16, St. Augustine, FL

Molly Frey, 16, Pickerington, OH

John Kargel, 15, Isle, MN

Zaniya Lewis, 18, Edgewater Park, NJ

Eleanor Rager, 17, Douglasville, GA

 

MILITARY CHILD OF THE YEAR® AWARD FOR INNOVATION (presented by Booz Allen Hamilton)

Sophie Bernstein, 16, St. Louis, MO, Navy

Gabriel Feinn, 16, Louisville, KY, Navy

Noah Freye, 17, Chesapeake, VA, Navy

Kennedy Knight, 17, Charlotte, NC, National Guard

Lily Moser, 15,  Portland, OR, Army

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL, Army

 

So now that we have our finalists, what’s next?

Winners will be announced in March and then on to the big gala in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 2017.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Military Child of the Year® Award and read about our past recipients at http://www.militarychildoftheyear.org and get inspired by pictures from last year’s festivities here.

Congratulations to all of our Military Child of the Year® finalists! Great job!

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mcoy17-web_fbpost_640x640-semi-finalistsHere at Operation Homefront, the New Year doesn’t just bring with it the anticipation of all the ways we will serve our military families but also the excitement of Military Child of the Year award season! And it begins in earnest today with the announcing of our semifinalists for the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award and the semifinalists for the second annual Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

This year’s semifinalists range in age from 8-18 and represent 37 states and Puerto Rico, with one nominee from overseas.

Without further ado, here are our semifinalists by branch of service (You can find a list by state here)

AIR FORCE

Anthony Beasley, 18, Hurlburt Field, FL.

Jamal Braxton, 18, Hill AFB, UT.

Katherine Dever, 17, Kathleen, GA.

Marianna Galvin, 17, Henderson, NV.

Linda Goodson, 17, Triangle, VA.

Gavin Hetzler, 17, Edmond, OK.

Sharlee Krkosa, 17, Schertz, TX.

Trevette Kuester, 17, Huntington, MD.

Kylee McClure, 18, Monroe, UT.

Erin McLeod, 17,  Anchorage, AK.

Jordyn McNeal, 10, Birmingham, AL.

Benjamin Rawald, 14, Del Rio, TX.

Edward Salvador, 16, Niceville, FL.

Caroline Stanton, 11, Las Vegas, NV.

Erica Thompson, 18, Colorado Springs, CO.

ARMY

Darrius Anderson, 17, Mansfield, TX.

Alec Argueta, 17, El Paso, TX.

Andrea Gamble, 17, Kaiserlauten, GER

Hayley Hamblin, 18, Florissant, CO.

Henderson Heussner, 18, Fort Myers, FL.

Hunter Hotaling, 15, Lansing, KS.

Timothy Hunt, 17,  Burke, VA.

Mackenzie Miller, 17, Peachtree City, GA.

Elissa Nott, 17, Onalaska, WI.

Jediah Persaud, 16, Appling, GA.

Grace Pleinis, 9, Tampa, FL.

Thomas Rizza, 11, Bradenton, FL.

Cohen Russell, 10, Fort Meade, MD.

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL.

Madeline Turpin, 17, Wahiawa, HI.

COAST GUARD

Mary Kate Cooper, 17, Fairfax, VA.

Kaili Cutler, 8, Daphne, AL.

Tyler Evans, 14, Maple Valley, WA.

Janelle Gehrke, 15, Saint Joseph, MI.

William Kuebler, 12, League City, TX.

Charlie McGuire, 12, Trenton, NJ.

Kylie McGuire, 15, Trenton, NJ.

Gabriel Niles, 14, Bennington, VT.

Jessie Porter, 17, Bayamon, PR.

Ashlynn Ruleman, 16, Waterford, CT

Alyssa Santos, 17, Tarpon Springs, FL.

Joseph Schmid, 8, Marshfield, MA.

Kira Walters, 14, Yorktown, VA.

Cody Watson, 16, Tuttle, OK.

Rachel Winburn, 17, Ketchikan, AK.

MARINE CORPS

Viktoria Alston, 17, Havelock, NC.

Jackson Beatty, 17, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Carson Butler, 18, Virginia Beach, VA.

Kindrah Carney, 16, Pearl City, HI.

Alejandro Cook-Hernandez, 17, Havelock, NC.

Da’Rod Crutchfield, 18, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Jocelyn Figueora-Urquidi, 13, Beaufort, SC.

Joshua Frawley, 13, Jacksonville, NC.

McKenzie Galloway, 17, Stafford, VA.

Brooke Gruber, 17, Jacksonville, NC.

Sierra LeFlore, 17, San Marcos, CA.

Jennifer Narvaez, 16, Hubert, NC.

Cody Phillips, 17, Quantico, VA.

Thomas Russ, 17, Stafford, VA.

Neorah Wells, 9, Charlotte, NC.

NAVY

Alexis Bryant, 17, Virginia Beach, VA.

Olivia Burch, 18, Grand Forks, ND.

Chace Cleckley, 17, Fallon, NV.

Caleb Harding, 16, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Sierra K., 17, Middletown, RI.

Britton Laing, 18, Silverdale, WA.

Akaiah Lovell, 15, Port Orchard, WA.

Alexander McGrath, 17, Severna Park, MD.

Aiden OLeary, 17, Fredricksburg, VA.

Evan Pittman, 18, Phoenix, AZ.

Isabelle Richards, 12, Jamul, CA.

Kathryn Schorr, 17, Darien, CT.

Alexander Sucato, 16, Belle Chasse, LA.

Ethan Vicario, 17, Virginia Beach, VA.

Reagan Warrick, 12, El Cajon, CA.

NATIONAL GUARD 

Connor Ascherl, 18, Granville, IA.

Amelia Bailey, 16, Saint Augustine, FL.

Trevor Bartunek, 17, Rapid City, SD.

Sheryl Evans, 17, Callahan, FL.

Molly Frey, 16, Pickerington, OH.

John Kargel, 15, Isle, MN.

Zaniya Lewis, 18, Edgewater Park, NJ.

Sydney Long, 17, Lincoln, NE.

Isabelle Miller, 16, Spokane, WA.

Lily Moser, 15, Portland, OR.

Eleanor Rager, 17, Douglasville, GA.

Kara Smith, 17, Munford, TN.

Alexander Steinmetz, 16, Cottage Grove, MN.

Joshua Traxel, 16, Rolla, MO.

Alysha Worden, 17, Martinez, GA.

Semifinalists for 2017 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation Presented by Booz Allen Hamilton

BreAsia Austin, 17, Dallas, TX, National Guard

Kamille Banks, 17, Lodi, NJ, Coast Guard

Sophie Bernstein, 16, St. Louis, MO, Navy

Elizabeth Brouse, 17, Merchantville, NJ, Army

Marianne Dunaway, 17, Madison, AL, Army

Gabriel Feinn, 16, Louisville, KY, Navy

Kianna Flowers, 17, Gambrills, MD, Air Force

Noah Freye, 17, Chesapeake, VA, Navy

Kennedy Knight, 17, Charlotte, NC, National Guard

Maura Knutsen, 17, Centerville, UT, Army

Jason Lee, 17, Pacheco, CA, Army

Jennifer Molton, 16, Lucas, OH, National Guard

Lily Moser, 15, Portland, OR, Army

Krystalin Neary, 17, St. Peter, MN, National Guard

Caitlyn Schoon, 17, Belle Plaine, MN, Army

Samantha Shaffer, 18, Greenwood, IN, Army

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL, Army

Mikaela Smith, 17, Las Vegas, NV, Air Force

Trinity Torgerson, 17, Colorado Springs, CO, National Guard

Cierra Williams-Carter, 17, Virginia Beach, VA, Navy

So now that we have our semifinalists, what’s next?

Each semifinalist for the military branch awards will be interviewed by a team selected by Operation Homefront staff. Award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges, to include senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s board of directors, and other leaders in the military support community.  Booz Allen Hamilton will judge competitors for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation.

The top 5 finalists from each branch will be announced in February.  Winners will be announced in March and then on to the big gala in Washington, D.C. on April 06, 2017.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Military Child of the Year Award and read about our past recipients at www.militarychildoftheyear.org and get inspired by pictures from last year’s festivities here.

Congratulations to all of our Military Child of the Year semi-finalists! Great job!

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madelinemorlinomcoy2016Through three military permanent change of station relocations and 32 months of her father’s deployments, Madeleine Morlino has lived a life of giving back to the country and to the community, consistent with the foundational values and love of country upon which she was raised. Madeleine was adopted from China when she was 11 months old. Believing fervently that her family made her life better than it would have been had she remained in China, Madeleine has devoted her life to keeping America and her community strong.

Just about every day, Madeleine accomplishes something for America — one veteran, indeed one citizen, at a time.

Motivated by the challenges her family faced as her father transitioned from the Air Force to civilian life, Madeleine set out to ease the transition for other service members. She conceived, organized and led a job expo for veterans in her hometown. She and her colleagues on the committee that planned the event successfully attracted national and local businesses that were poised to offer veterans meaningful employment.

Driven to share her love of country and inspire others, Madeleine joined with her 18-year-old sister, Eleanor, in creating a Young Americans for Freedom group at her high school. Under Madeleine’s leadership, membership in the organization increased 300 percent from the year before, attracting a diverse group of young people to join the effort to spread the word about the uniqueness of the U.S. Constitution and the greatness of our nation as a whole.

Despite also being involved with student body government, Model UN, and a host of other volunteer activities, Madeleine still finds time for orchestra and cross country running. Perhaps we see a clue to the fuel that fires her in her favorite quote, by Og Mandino: “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”

Madeleine’s love of country and call to serve will continue after she graduates, as she is now a member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2020 cadets.

Madeleine is the daughter of Kerry Ann Morlino and retired Air Force Master Sgt. Leonard Morlino of Moorestown, N.J.

 

This week, we will be shining a spotlight on each of our Military Child of the Year Award recipients, as well as the first ever recipient of the Operation Homefront-Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award. Be sure to check back daily or follow us on Twitter or Facebook for updates. In addition, throughout the months of April and May, we invite you to show your appreciation by sending a message of thanks and sharing #Mission2Honor with your friends and family. Follow this link to share your message, or post your own message on social media using #Mission2Honor.

Our heartfelt thanks to our presenting sponsor United Technologies, and all of our 2016 Military Child of the Year Award sponsors, for making this annual award one of the highlights of our year.  Your support allows us to bring the stories of our military families to the forefront, making a difference in raising awareness of the challenges they face in protecting our nation.

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monthomilitarychildblog1When we view a photo of a military family, we tend to focus on the service member. That intense gaze. The confident stance. We wonder what obstacles they faced as they guarded our country’s freedom. We want  to know their story.

The photo here isn’t the classic image of the warrior.  This photo is about family. It is the family that stands beside that service member. Their story is love and laughter, joy and fear and, yes, occasional tears.

They serve, too.

April is Month of the Military Child. In honor of them, we present 5 reasons why military kids totally deserve to be recognized for the whole month of April…and really for the whole year!

1. They are patriotic. These kids know what the flag, the anthem and the pledge represent. As they grow, they understand that while they may not have their parent around, it’s for a very important reason that impacts the lives of all of America’s kids. As a result, they learn and live a love for their country. And it extends to their community service. Read how Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, our 2015 Army Military Child of the Year, tirelessly finds ways to bring some comfort to our nation’s veterans.

2. They are strong and resilient. How many sleepless nights have they endured, wondering if daddy is okay or just missing him? How many times have they had to take that scary walk into yet another new classroom? How many birthdays (or school events, or holidays) has their mom or dad missed? monthofmilitarychildblog2And how many military kids have had to grow up very quickly and fill the gap a parent may have left, whether they are wounded or gone from the home because they are deployed? They face extraordinary circumstances with quiet resolve. Read how Caleb Parsons, our 2015 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, stepped in to help when his parents, both service members, were deployed at the same time.

3. They are citizens of the world. Talk to any typical military kid. They have likely seen and lived in multiple states. They may have lived in one or more countries in Europe, or Asia, or both. As a result, their knowledge of other cultures, languages and empathy for those who may look or act differently is highly developed. A fine example is our 2015 Air Force Military Child of the Year, Sarah Hesterman, who seeks to empower girls on a global scale through her work with the United Nations.

4. They support each other. The best person that can understand the life of a military child is someone who has lived it. Military kids stand together…connected by similar struggles, mixed with amazing experiences and overwhelming pride. Our 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year, Nate Richards, even started his own blog to encourage other military kids.

5. They don’t ask for recognition. People often forget that military kids serve our country too. They didn’t choose a life that offers moments that are exciting and gut-wrenching, sometimes within the same week or month. They humbly serve behind the scenes. And we’re happy to point the spotlight squarely in their direction. By honoring a few, we recognize them all.

As we honor our youngest patriots this month, we invite you to learn more about, and be impressed by, our 2016 Military Child of the Year recipients. Check back here as we share more stories and articles about them. And mark your calendars to follow us on social media on April 14 as we celebrate them with a special gala in Washington D.C. We’re also excited to announce our Mission2Honor initiative to recognize military kids and families during April and May. We hope you’ll join us and a part of this effort!

Together, we will continue our mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive – not simply get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.

* We dedicate this blog in memory of 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year Recipient Zachary Parsons who tragically lost his life in February in a car accident. Zachary strived every day to live a life of integrity and serves as the finest example by which all military kids can be inspired.

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It is always a special day when we get to announce the recipients of our annual Military Child of the Year ® Award. Every year, we are awed by the accomplishments of all our nominees, and it never gets easier choosing just six to represent the virtues of resiliency, leadership and achievement that we know are exhibited every day by military children around the world. But choose we must, and so without further ado, it is our great honor to present this year’s recipients for the Military Child of the Year award for each branch of service:

MCOY Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer army website image 225 x 281ARMY

Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer

 

 

 

 

MCOY christian fagala marines website image 225 x 281MARINE CORPS

Christian Fagala

 

 

 

 

MCOY jeffrey burds navy website image 225 x 281NAVY

Jeffrey Burds

 

 

 

 

MCOY Madeleine Morlino2 AF website image 225 x 281AIR FORCE                                                                          

Madeleine Morlino

 

 

 

 

MCOY aaron fike CG website image 225 x 281COAST GUARD

Keegan Fike

 

 

 

 

MCOY john trip landon NG website image 225 x 281NATIONAL GUARD

John “Trip” Landon III

 

 

 

 

“The children in our military families demonstrate the best in our society and our Military Child of the Year® Award recipients are extraordinary representatives of this spirit of selfless service,” said Brig Gen (ret) John I. Pray, Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “They perform at a very high level both in and out of school while simultaneously dealing with parental deployments, recurring relocations, and other challenges associated with military life. I can’t wait to meet these outstanding young people and present them with their well-deserved awards.”

Each award recipient will receive $10,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C., for a special recognition gala on April 14. United Technologies Corp. is the presenting sponsor for the Military Child of the Year® Awards Gala. Other sponsors are Wounded, Warrior Project, Southern New Hampshire University, Murphy-Goode Winery, MidAtlanticBroadband, La Quinta Inns & Suites, and Aflac. Operation Homefront will also present the inaugural Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children at the gala, the recipient of which will be announced next week.

Check back soon as we spotlight each recipient heading up to our awards gala in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2016.

Congratulations to all of our recipients!

 

 

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by Cathy McCarthy, Operation Homefront, Navy veteran and military spouse

The email that Operation Homefront received began the way that many do, with a thank you for assistance we have provided. It included the common refrain we’ve seen many times over 14 years of providing emergency assistance to military families.

“I have frienfear for familiesds that have had a water heater rupture and flood their house, another their washing machines quit, another house payment problems, another car payment problems and we have left our wives/husbands with the entire load to manage.”

The Murphy’s Law of Deployments. Something many of our military families are intimately familiar with. If it can break, it will, and it will do so as soon as your service member leaves on deployment.

As a Navy wife, I experienced the car breakdowns. The sick children. Calling a neighbor at 5 am because I threw out my back and couldn’t pick up my baby. The appliances going kaput. And more than my fair share of shower cries.

But it is what the next two sentences said that gave me the most pause…

“The stress on these families can be unbearable. Some of us will not make the reintegration back into our families.”

There it is. In black and white. The worst fear of many a military couple, but one too often not confronted, or one we shove to the back of our minds or one we pretend does not exist. The specter that the stress, from years of deployments, or years of trying to recover from combat wounds (both seen and unseen), will eventually tear the family apart.

A RAND corporation study in 2013 looked at 462,444 enlisted service members who married while serving in the military from March 1999 to June 2008. “Researchers found that cumulative months of deployment matter. More cumulative months of deployment increased the risk of divorce among military couples, regardless of when the couple married or when the deployment occurred. The risk of divorce was higher for hostile deployments than for non-hostile deployments, and women were always more likely to divorce than male service members as a result of time in deployment.”

But what sticks out the most from this study is that 97 percent of the divorces occurred after a return from deployment.

There are some things that programs and pamphlets can’t fix. But, together with many of our partner organizations and fellow travelers in the non-profit world, we hope we can help do something to change the odds. If we can be there for the spouse and children of a deployed service member when the heating goes out in the dead of winter, or provide respite and a shoulder for a caregiver, or give a veteran a place to transition or a forever home, then we remove one burden. Perhaps that one thing gives the family time to breathe and regroup and focus on themselves.

We are lucky to live how we do thanks, in no small part, to the service of our men and women in uniform. It’s a debt we can never repay, and for some, we will owe in perpetuity. But the times we can repay, we should. In whatever way we can keep the stress and effects of war from becoming too great, we should.

Helping build strong, stable and secure military families is how we truly say “Thank you for your service.”

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