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Archive for the ‘Coast Guard’ Category

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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Maggie Rochon was our Military Child of the Year for the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011. We were honored to have Maggie with us this year in DC, helping to present this year’s MCOY award to our Coast Guard recipient.  We also had the chance to touch base with her recently to learn where life has taken her since we last met, including working with her good friend, Nicole Goetz, MCOY for U.S. Air Force 2011. (Read Nicole’s update here)

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, Margaret Rochon, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt, Peggy Rochon and Chief Petty Officer Gene Rochon at the 2011 Military Child of the Year awards.

It’s been over six years since I was honored as Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard, and I’ve been through a lot of transitions since then.

As one can expect in life, not much stays the same for very long. This was a lesson that was learned and reinforced on several occasions being a military child. Within a few months after Operation Homefront’s MCOY gala in Washington, D.C., I would decide where I was going to spend the next four years of my life, graduate high school, and move across the country to start on the college journey.

Moving to Ohio for school didn’t seem like too big of a deal. Growing up with a parent in the military, you grow accustomed to moving every few years, so what was one more move? What I didn’t know at the time was that my decision to attend The Ohio State University would be both a culture shock and a catalyst for many subsequent, major, transitions.

Growing up, no matter what new address I had to learn, or friends I had to make, or school I had to attend, I always felt a sense of comfort being surrounded by at least a few others who were also military children. There was a security blanket of sorts knowing that someone else had been in my shoes and could understand what I was going through. There was someone who knew what it was like to miss a parent that was deployed overseas, or how to start a friendship with the new kid because they were once the new kid, but college wasn’t like that. I was suddenly dropped into a setting with 50,000 other people and it felt like not a single other person had even a similar life experience to mine.

The first few weeks in college were a whirlwind of learning a new place, living without my parents for the first time ever, introducing myself what felt like a thousand times, and of course getting to know all these new people. I should have been an expert at that, and thanks to every experience I had as a child, I fared pretty well, at least for the most part, but that’s also when I was confronted with the gap between military families and civilian families. It started with the simple question: “Where are you from?” Well, as a military child, how do you answer that? Do I ask how they are defining “from”? Is it lying if I just name only one place? Will it be too long of an answer if I go into depth about all the places I’ve lived? Do I explain that I was born in one state, started school in another, and graduated high school somewhere else? But that doesn’t even touch on the two other states I lived in.

I felt like I was an anomaly among peers that had never moved from the town they were born in; some had never even vacationed out of the state of Ohio. By the time I explained why I had moved so often, I had been bombarded with so many more questions about my childhood. Next thing I knew, I had to explain what my dad did, what it was like for him to deploy so often, what my childhood was like, and so on. Even at the time of my freshman year in college, my dad was deployed to the Middle East.*

While at the time it was a little isolating to be the only military kid in my friend group, I also realized there was an opportunity to help connect a part of our population with the much smaller military community. So many people shared their gratitude for what my dad did for this country and what my family sacrificed so that he could do that. It was actually amazing.

The transition from a military community to a civilian world was possibly one of the hardest transitions I’ve had to go through, but it was an important learning experience and opportunity that I am glad I had. The appreciation I gained for my childhood, and for what my dad did, is something I can never thank God enough for. Knowing that so many people felt touched by the service of our men and women in uniform, knowing my dad was one of them, made me so incredibly proud of this country, but especially my family.

Undergrad flew by in the blink of an eye. Even though the first year was a little tough adjusting, I found my niche, including finding friends that also were transitioning from the military life to college. In particular, I became friends with a Marine, Alex. Alex came from the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, area, much like myself; we even had quite a few mutual friends. Alex spent four years on active duty before pursing his degree at Ohio State. We are engaged, and we’ve been together for four years, a part of three units, and are currently residing in the central Ohio area.

After graduating from college, I became actively engaged in state and national campaigns, and started pursing my career. I currently work as the Director of Constituent Affairs in Governor Kasich’s Office, and am a graduate student at Ohio University.

Thinking back six years to the gala weekend, it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. It seems like just yesterday we were in Washington, D.C. for the event. I remember the night of the gala looking at my mom and dad, seeing how proud they were of me, and seeing that they were relieved that my dad’s decision to serve our country didn’t burden my childhood, but enriched and shaped who I was. There wasn’t a moment that I remember more than that feeling and sharing that special time with my family.

Military Child of the Year Alumni at our 2018 gala: (left to right) Alena Deveau (2012 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year), Nicole Goetz (2011 Air Force Military Child of the Year), Alex McGrath (2017 Navy Military Child of the Year), Christian Fagala (2016 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year), Henderson Heussner (2017 Army Military Child of the Year), Maggie Rochon (2011 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year)

Surprisingly, too, I met a lifelong friend that weekend, Nicole Goetz. That weekend was so overwhelming, I remember thinking that it was nice to meet so many other great, and inspiring, military kids, [but] there was no way in one weekend we would bond in such a way that we would ever be more than pen-pals. I was wrong. About halfway through our freshman year in college, Nicole messaged me on Facebook about a project she was working on. Outside of the project, it was an opportunity to connect with another military kid going through the same transition to college as I was. Now Nicole and I are dear friends and try to hang out as often as we are in the same state. We’ve even started working on a project this fall, an online forum to connect and share experiences among military families so whether they are across the street or across the country, they always have a friendly connection.

By Maggie Rochon

Please check back with us as we bring you more “Where Are They Now” stories from our previous Military Child of the Year Award winners and their families.

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. #MCOY2018

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Last week, Operation Homefront hosted an activity-packed three-day celebration to honor our stellar Military Child of the Year Award® recipients.  And what an amazing three days it was!

The 10th annual Military Child of the Year festivities kicked off Tuesday with our BAH Innovation Award recipient, Shelby Barber from Hawaii, touring the Innovation Center at Booz Allen Hamilton. Her visit included a tour, a sampling of their state-of-the-art virtual reality experiences, and a brainstorming meeting with the Booz Allen Hamilton project team who will help Shelby bring to life her concept for a portable medical device for children with severe allergies.

On Wednesday, Brig. Gen. John I Pray, Jr., Air Force (Ret.), President and CEO of Operation Homefront, welcomed all seven recipients at a welcome lunch before the kids, their families, and OH staff departed for Capitol Hill to meet and greet their state congressional representatives.

Afterwards, the MCOY recipients came back to the hotel for dinner, where they received laptops from Booz Allen Hamilton and Microsoft, along with cash awards and some very special surprises from Kendra Scott and Cracker Barrel.

Thursday, our awardees had the opportunity to meet and mingle with OH staff, our National Board of Directors, and Region 1 Advisory Board member Danny Chung, from Microsoft, our breakfast sponsor, who presented each recipient with a brand new Surface laptop.

 

Then, it was off to the National Museum of American History. For the fifth year, OH worked with the Archives Center to give the MCOY recipients a behind-the-scene tour. When the MCOY recipients weren’t weaving through a maze of stacked artifacts, they were able to explore the exhibits, including the First Ladies display as well as the Star-Spangled Banner — the original stars and stripes that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 — providing the inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner lyrics from Francis Scott Key.

Then, it was time for the main event — the gala! ESPN analyst and former MLB player Chris Singleton served as the emcee, and appropriately kicked off the evening with a rousing “play ball!” America’s Beloved Tenor, Daniel Rodriguez, sang the national anthem during the Presentation of Colors by JROTC cadets from T.C. Williams High School from Alexandria, Virginia.


 

John Pray started the program recognizing service members, veterans, and our military family members. Of the MCOY recipients, John said: “We recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of these seven recipients, who represent the collective excellence of military children everywhere. They personify resiliency, leadership, and strength of character. Their families and communities, as well as our corporate partners and the staff and volunteers at Operation Homefront, are very proud of them as individuals and all the other young people in the military families they represent.”

 

Two wonderful guests helped OH salute the MCOY recipients: Brennley Brown and Melissa Stockwell.

Brennley, an emerging country artist (you might recognize her from Season 12 of The Voice) spoke about how inspired she was that she was here with kids who were her own age and had already accomplished so much. She treated the crowd to a beautiful musical performance.

Melissa Stockwell, Army veteran, two-time Paralympian, and proud mom, spoke about her journey after losing her leg. In her remarks, Melissa spoke about resilience and her inspiration, telling the MCOY recipients, “your voices are so strong … stand up for what you believe in.”

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lyons, Director for Logistics, representing General Joseph Dunford and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered remarks that underscored the importance of the military family, particularly the children, in ensuring our nation has a ready force. “The decision of our service members to remain serving in our nation’s military is most often made at the dinner table,” said Gen. Lyons. “The way organizations like Operation Homefront care for our families and support children like these helps us keep our forces engaged and strong.”

 

Lt. Gen. Lyons then was joined by John Pray and Lieutenant General Brian Arnold, USAF, Ret., Chairman of the Operation Homefront Board of Directors, for the award presentations. Each presenter took a few moments to celebrate the military family behind the recipients, then they highlighted the amazing awardee accomplishments.

Several of our previous Military Child of the Year Award recipients were on hand to help present the awards to the new generation.

Military Child of the Year Alumni: (left to right) Alena Deveau (2012 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year), Nicole Goetz (2011 Air Force Military Child of the Year), Alex McGrath (2017 Navy Military Child of the Year), Christian Fagala (2016 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year), Henderson Heussner (2017 Army Military Child of the Year), Maggie Rochon (2011 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year)

But it was not over yet! For the second year, Carnival Cruise Line and Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Richard Morse shocked, literally, the MCOY recipients and their families with a free family cruise.

“This has been a remarkable evening,” said John as he closed out the evening. “To all our honorees tonight, I know your parents, families, and communities are so proud of you. We are proud of you too. You inspire every one of us.”

 

With the 10th annual Military Child of the Year in the books, we turn our focus to wrapping up the logistics and towards planning for the 11th MCOY Gala to be held on April 11, 2019.

Special thanks to United Technologies Corporation, our presenting sponsor for the 2018 Military Child of the Year Awards Gala. Other gala sponsors were Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Military Times, La Quinta Inns & Suites, MidAtlanticBroadband, Veterans United Home Loans, and Under Armour. #MCOY2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See highlights from Roark’s long list of achievements:

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

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Congratulations to the top 5 finalists for 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award!

Six Military Child of the Year® Award recipients will represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life. The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. This award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge.

The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a Booz Allen Hamilton team to develop a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking as a part of the corporation’s competitive Summer Games.

The following are the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award finalists by service branch. Finalists for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation are also designated:

Air Force
Eve Glenn, 16, Tampa, FL (Glenn is also one of 4 finalists for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation)
Hannah Cheater, 17, Las Vegas, NV
Benjamin Rawald, 15, Del Rio, TX
Braden Westby, 18, Vilonia, AR
Madison Williams, 18, Monument, CO

Army
Rachel Ball, 17, Springfield, VA
Elizabeth Clinger, 17, Colorado Springs, CO
Hunter Hotaling, 16, Lansing, KS
Bryce Kim, 17, El Paso, TX
Rebekah Paxton, 17, Harrisonville, MO

Coast Guard
Allison Brozusky, 17, Middletown, RI
Roark Corson, 17, Virginia Beach, VA
Mattie Gross, 16, Kodiak, AK
Gabriel Niles, 15, Bennington, VT
Cody Watson, 18, Tuttle, OK

Marine Corps
William Butler, 16, Virginia Beach, VA
Katelyn Francis, 17, Havelock, NC
Joshua Frawley, 14, Jacksonville, NC
Taylor Pokorney, 17, Albany, OR
Elena Polinski, 17, Moundsville, WV (Polinski is also one of 4 finalists for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation)

National Guard
Madisyn Clark, 17, Peoria, AZ
Aaron Hall, 16, Coarsegold, CA
Aiden Hunter, 16, Onalaska, WA
Koralys Rodriguez, 17, Statesville, NC
Jessica Walker, 17, Blanding, UT

Navy
Sidney Brown, 17, Wiggins, MS
James Cosman, 13, Quantico, VA
Elisabeth Lundgren, 17, Chula Vista, CA
Isabelle Richards, 13, Jamul, CA
Madison Walker, 17, Virginia Beach, VA

Innovation Finalists
Eve Glenn, 16, Air Force, Tampa, FL
Shelby Barber, 17, Air Force, Ewa Beach, HI
Elena Polinski, 17, Marine Corps, Moundsville, WV
Gavin Sylvia, 18, Army, Fort Campbell, KY

The finalists were selected by an independent panel of judges. The final award recipients for each branch of service will be announced in early March. The Military Child of the Year® Award reflects the positive impact that these special young people have made on their military families, their schools, and their communities. The final seven award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C., to be recognized at the April 19 gala, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards. They also will each receive $10,000, a laptop computer, and other donated gifts.

2018 marks the 10th anniversary of this special event — the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of our military children. Thank you to the amazing sponsors of our Military Child of the Year awards program: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, LaQuinta Inn & Suites, MidAtlantic Broadband, Procter & Gamble, Sightline Media Group, and Tutor.com Online Tutoring for Military Families. #MCOY2018

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We are excited to announce  the 95 semifinalists for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® (MCOY) Award!

Drumroll….

 

Air Force

Isabella Mollison, 17, Japan

Jordan Soles, 17, Germany

Tristan Waring, 18, Sahuarita, Ariz.

Braden Westby, 18, Vilonia, Ark.

Jacob Angerman, 16, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Trinity Boles, 17, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.

Madison Williams, 18, Monument, Colo.

Claire Alonzo, 17, Springfield, Va.

Eve Glenn, 16, Tampa, Fla. (Glenn is also one of 11 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation)

Brian Thompson, 15, Bel Air, Md.

Hannah Cheater, 17, Las Vegas, Nev.

Hannah Browning, 18, Wooster, Ohio

Travis Almand, 18, Southlake, Texas

Benjamin Rawald, 15, Del Rio, Texas

Hannah Bahner, 13, Layton, Utah

 

Army

Laila Donawa, 15, South Korea

Breanna Kendle, 17, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Elizabeth Clinger, 17, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Imani Jessamy, 18, Alexandria, Va.

Rachel Ball, 17, Springfield, Va.

Hunter Hotaling, 16, Lansing, Kan.

Rebekah Paxton, 17, Harrisonville, Mo.

Samantha Blankenship, 17, Elizabethtown, Ky.

Joel Thompson, 17, Lafayette, La.

Samuel Gwinn, 15, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Ryan Krese, 17, Columbia, S.C.

Jason Herlick, 16, Adams, Tenn.

Brooke Errington, 17, Fort Hood, Texas

Bryce Kim, 17, El Paso, Texas

Jazmin Norris, 18, Cibolo, Texas

 

Coast Guard

Mattie Gross, 16, Kodiak, Alaska

Roark Corson, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Danyelle Gardier, 15, Frederick, Md.

Julia Mazel, 17, Richmond Hill, Ga.

John “Jack” Kennedy, 15, Grangeville, Idaho

Liam Cooper, 15, New Orleans, La.

Austin McGuire, 18, Hamilton, N.J.

Garrett Davis, 17, Richlands, N.C.

Cody Watson, 18, Tuttle, Okla.

Allison Brozusky, 17, Middletown, R.I.

Kayleigh Wilson, 14, Munford, Tenn.

Gabriel Niles, 15, Bennington, Vt.

Adam Light, 18, Port Angeles, Wash.

 

Marine Corps

Hunter Brown, 17, Winchester, Calif.

Chance Hughes, 17, San Clemente, Calif.

Angelina Marsella, 16, Quantico, Va.

Isabel Navarro, 16, Stafford, Va.

Sadie Baer, 17, Albany, Ga.

Katelyn Francis, 17, Havelock, N.C.

Joshua Frawley, 14, Jacksonville, N.C.

Erik Hrudka, 16, Jacksonville, N.C.

Victor Ramirez, 17, Jacksonville, N.C.

Kennedy Starkey, 17, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Taylor Pokorney, 17, Albany, Ore.

Robert Boyero, 17, Senatobia, Miss.

William Butler, 16, Virginia Beach, Va.

Caitlyn Hattaway, 17, Oak Harbor, Wash.

Elena Polinski, 17, Moundsville, W.Va. (Polinski is also one of 11 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation)

 

National Guard

Madisyn Clark, 17, Peoria, Ariz.

Aaron Hall, 16, Coarsegold, Calif.

Amelia Bailey, 17, Saint Augustine, Fla.

Kjersten Inskeep, 15, Eudora, Kan.

Megan McKenna, 15, Bedford, Mass.

Maya Faulds, 14, Barnegat, N.J.

Dawson Gunn, 13, Rio Rancho, N.M. (Gunn is also one of 11 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation)

Koralys Rodriguez, 17, Statesville, N.C.

Kassidy Marciel, 17, Oregon City, Ore. (Marciel is also one of 11 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation)

Lindsey Faulkner, 13, Monaca, Pa.

Christian Hall, 16, Gaston, S.C.

Jessica Walker, 17, Blanding, Utah

Mikaela Georgiou, 17, Afton, Va.

Aiden Hunter, 16, Onalaska, Wash.

Mickayla VanNatter, 15, Guernsey, Wyo.

 

Navy

Kathleen Sharman, 17, Vietnam

Kircee Killian, 17, Lemoore, Calif.

Elisabeth Lundgren, 17, Chula Vista, Calif.

Isabelle Richards, 13, Jamul, Calif.

Ethan Vicario, 18, San Diego, Calif.

Nadia Debem, 14, Aurora, Colo.

James Cosman, 13, Quantico, Va.

Jeffery Gill, 17, King George, Va.

Haleigh Dilks, 14, Honolulu, Hawaii

Sidney Brown, 17, Wiggins, Miss.

Rachel Flatt, 18, Middlebury, Vt.

Elise Avila, 17, Norfolk, Va.

Shelby Peck, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Madison Walker, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Gabriella Cardenas, 17, Marysville, Wash. 

 

Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation

Miracle Olatunji, 17, New Castle, Del., Air Force

Carmie Basnight, 17, Lorton, Va., Army

Carson Freeman, 16, St. Augustine, Fla., Army

Eve Glenn, 16, Tampa, Fla., Air Force

Shelby Barber, 17, Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Air Force

Gabriel Feinn, 17, Louisville, Ky., Navy

Gavin Sylvia, 18, Fort Campbell, Ky., Army

Ashley Beers, 14, Minot AFB, N.D., Air Force

Dawson Gunn, 13, Rio Rancho, N.M., National Guard

Kassidy Marciel, 17, Oregon City, Ore., National Guard

Elena Polinski, 17, Moundsville, W.Va.

 

The Military Child of the Year® Award reflects the positive impact that these special young people have made on their military families, their schools, and their communities. The final seven award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C., to be recognized at the April 19 gala, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards. They also will each receive $10,000, a laptop computer, and other donated gifts.

Beyond the ceremony and gifts, the Military Child of the Year® Award is a lifelong source of pride for the recipients and has provided them with amazing opportunities to meet senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

Mark Newberry, the 2013 Air Force Military Child of the Year®, recently wrote:

“One of the greatest honors of my life so far was representing the Air Force in 2013 as an Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year… If you would have told me as a high school senior that I would be chosen to represent military children at the Operation Homefront gala, meet the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, and receive an Air Force ROTC scholarship that would afford me opportunities to study what I love, jump out of planes, and become a pilot, I wouldn’t have believed you. Being a military child has afforded me so many opportunities that not many children get to experience.”

Thirty-five finalists will be selected in February by a panel of judges chosen by Operation Homefront’s senior leadership.

Six Military Child of the Year® Award recipients will represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life.  The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.  This award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge.

The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a Booz Allen Hamilton team to develop a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking as a part of the corporation’s competitive Summer Games.

More information about the Military Child of the Year® Awards is available at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

View pictures from last year’s gala.

 

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About Operation Homefront: Founded in 2002, Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity oversight groups, 92 percent of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs that support tens of thousands of military families each year. Operation Homefront provides critical financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing and family support services to prevent short-term needs from turning into chronic, long-term struggles. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the support from thousands of volunteers, Operation Homefront proudly serves America’s military families. For more information, visit OperationHomefront.org

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Before we jump into 2018, we’d like to look back at some of the best moments from this past year. It goes without saying that we are able to advance our mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families because of those who give – our individual and corporate donors. Thank you! These moments would not happen without you.

1. These women came to our caregiver retreat…in a hurricane! As Hurricane Harvey was skirting San Antonio, we were hosting a group of caregivers along the Riverwalk for a very special retreat, as part of our Hearts of Valor program. They would not be kept away by a hurricane and there’s a good reason. These retreats are designed to uplift those who are closest to wounded veterans. The retreats give caregivers a much-needed break and education about invisible wounds, compassion fatique, healthy living and staying connected. Special thanks to our sponsor, USAA, for making these retreats possible.

 

2. Our annual gala to celebrate military kids has become a must-attend event! Celebrating the youngest heroes of our military families is one of our favorite things to do. This year’s Military Child of the Year® Award, once again, recognized several outstanding young men and women who represent their families, their branches of service and their country very well. Read more about them and you’ll be inspired. Looking forward to meeting next year’s award recipients in April 2018 in Washington D.C. Who will they be? We’ll find out in early March! #GivingStrength

 

3. There’s no place like home! We get to be a part of making dreams come true through our Homes on the Homefront program that awards mortgage-free homes to veterans. To date, we’ve awarded 599 homes since the program began. All of this is possible because of our great partners like Chase, Meritage Homes, Wade Jurney Homes and Sears (who donated and raised money to provide two homes to veteran families in 2017). Stay tuned as we plan a big celebration for our 600th home in 2018.

 

 

4. Special nights for military spouses? Yes, we did! The call to military life is not easy on a service member’s spouse. Being apart from your service member AND trying to hold down the homefront is managed more easily when you have friends nearby. Our Homefront Celebrations give military spouses a night away to relax, make new friends and be pampered just a little. And thanks to our friends at Southern New Hampshire University, these events have bolstered the careers for some very special women who received a full-tuition scholarship at each celebration, like Megan Morris (pictured here at our event in Tampa, FL). Stay tuned as we announce another year of Homefront Celebrations around the country in 2018.

 

5. Awwwwwww! At our Star-Spangled Baby Showers each year, we get all mushy at the sights and sounds of our expecting moms and the young moms who bring along their sweet newborns. In 2017, we hosted 9 events from coast to coast, a few places in between and even Hawaii, providing critical baby supplies and large raffle items to hundreds of military moms. We were also excited to be joined by Procter and Gamble and Paralympic veteran Melissa Stockwell at our baby shower in Chesapeake, VA.

 

6. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without you! It’s been an honor serving military families around the country. Thanks to our generous donors, we served more than 11,000 families with everything they needed for a spectacular holiday meal. Since we began our holiday programs in 2008, we have served nearly 80,000 military families, impacting over 330,000 family members. See our feature blog to celebrate another year of bringing joy to our military families this holiday season!

 

7. When it was time to hit the books, we made it a little easier. Going back to school is expensive. Military kids have enough to deal with and not having the right supplies should not be one of their struggles. We were happy to meet so many smiling faces, like this child in Dayton, OH, and remove the financial burden from their families. This year, we hit a major milestone, as we distributed our 300,000th backpack since the program began which included more than 41,000 backpacks given to military children around the U.S. this summer alone.

 

8. Home Depot Really Is #DoingMore4Vets! From golf tournaments to renovating veterans’ homes to providing support for our Critical Financial Assistance program, The Home Depot Foundation, and its band of Team Depot volunteers, are a long-time partner who support means so much as they join us in giving strength to military families! We were honored to present a Cornerstone Award to Heather Prill, Senior Manager, National Partnerships at The Home Depot Foundation for her contributions to the national nonprofit’s mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families this past September.

 

9. Transition from service can be a challenging time for veterans. Especially if they are coping with injuries and illnesses from their service. Our rent-free transitional housing villages stand ready to help when these families need it the most. Since inception, our villages have welcomed more than 500 families who lived in a rent-free, fully furnished apartment to help them make a smooth transition to civilian life. Our Critical Financial Assistance program helps military and veteran families overcome unexpected crises like a major appliance or car repair or help with rent or mortgage. We’ve been able to help veterans like Petero Taufagu who needed help getting his car repaired. Later, through our partnership with American Airlines, he also received a brand-new Jeep Cherokee. So now he has a reliable way to get to his necessary doctor appointments. Our donors, sponsors, and supporters are the reason we have been able to provide over $22 million in financial aid, fulfilling more than 40,000 requests.

 

10. Fact IS Stranger Than Fiction! We can’t make this stuff up!

a. Cracker Barrel created the Flip It Forward Pancake Fundraiser and raised $64,000 for Operation Homefront! It included a media tour with a pancake artist who even created our logo in pancake batter. We thought about framing it…then thought again.

b. Who doesn’t secretly harbor the desire to shatter glass? Our friends at CDW found a way to convince PGA TOUR players Ben Crane, Smylie Kaufman, Ryan Palmer and CDW-sponsored Gary Woodland to compete in a “glass breaking” event between the golf pros. And more was at stake than just bragging rights – winner Gary Woodland presented an additional donation of 10 Lenovo Chromebooks – five to Operation Homefront and five to the charity of Woodland’s choice. The entire event raised support for military families through Operation Homefront.

c. A personalized burger? Carnival Cruise Lines is known for fun but they outdid themselves when they devised a way to laser-burn personal well-wishes from military supporters onto burgers they served to Marines at a special event at MCAS Miramar in California. They even got former Miss USA DeShauna Barber there to serve the burgers and provided a $25,000 donation to Operation Homefront. You have to see the pictures to believe it.

d. We’ll brave a blizzard for you! We were still in the doldrums of summer heat when Chevy first invited us to be a part of their #ChevySalutes event to honor the military at the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia. Let’s just say winter hit with a vengeance that day and provided a very memorable experience to award a brand-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse to one of the nicest caregivers and her seven-tour combat veteran husband. Don’t worry, we dressed warmly, mom!

 

11. We still get starstruck! We’ve been excited to work with some pretty inspiring people this year.

a. The Pale Ale Wins the Summer of Yes! Carson Daly who worked with Other Half Brewing to create a craft beer with proceeds to support Operation Homefront as part of his #SummerOfYes on the Today Show.

b. Wonder-Super-Mega-Amazing Melissa Stockwell: Through our partnership with P&G, we got to work with the very inspiring Melissa Stockwell, who is a bronze-medal winning, 2-time Paralympian, triathlete and Purple Heart wounded Army veteran. She attended one of our Star-Spangled Baby Showers in Virginia and has since welcomed her own baby Millie to her sweet family.

c. Tim McGraw Walks the Walk. And where do we start with Tim McGraw? We’ve been working with this country superstar since 2012. From his personal support to joining us to award mortgage-free homes along with Chase, he has been a steadfast champion for military and veteran families. #GivingStrength #startstrongstaystrong

 

12. We have the best volunteers! Our volunteers show up and pitch in whenever they are needed. We host hundreds of events all year long from Alaska to the tip of Florida, from San Diego to Massachusetts. This year, we created a special Volunteer Reserves which recruits our volunteers that want to get involved, but don’t want to volunteer on a daily basis or even a weekly basis, but they’re very interested in staying in the loop and ready to be called on when we need help serving our military families.

There are so many moments to remember in 2017. And each was an honor because we got to be a part of serving our military and veteran families. That makes any year a great year!

If you’d like to be a part of giving strength this holiday season and making our 2018 even better, consider giving to a current need of a military family to give them the best start possible to the New Year!

 

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