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Archive for the ‘Gold Star Families’ Category

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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I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.- Abraham Lincoln

Mom. It’s a title that claims the heart and changes it forever. And we know a special class of moms – those who serve and those who love someone who serves. Their hearts often expand and bear more than the normal American. This Mother’s Day, we wanted to let our community of moms know that we are holding you close in our hearts and thoughts.

To the Moms Serving…FBCristiCrozier

We miss you. A lot. Dad’s doing a great job, and your friends are always there for us, but no one can replace you. We’re proud of you and your service to your country, and whatever we can do to support you, we will. Yes, we have days when we wish you were here, and some days where it is harder to smile, but we never doubt once that you love us. Come home soon.

 

To The Moms on the Homefront…

momdayblogsoldiersleepingYou keep the virtual, and often literal, porch light on for us. Yes, sometimes we will roll our eyes when you ask us detail after detail about our life in the military. No, that movie you saw the other day is not really how it works in the military. But we also know that we can call, anytime of day or night, from wherever we are in the world, and you will answer. We know that you will keep a Christmas tree up until February (or later) if that is what it takes to have us home for the holidays. You keep an open invitation to anyone we bring home with us, and don’t break a sweat when we told you it was three for dinner and … we showed up with six.

You are at the core of why we serve. You made us who we are today.

 

 To The Moms Caring For Our Wounded…

momdayblogwoundedwarriorYou brought us into the world, nurtured us, cared for us. You smiled with pride as we grew, and we felt the pride you had when we stepped up to serve our country despite your fears and concerns for our safety. And then those fears became reality. And again, you are there to care for us, to see us through. Even though we feel we may never be what we once were, you believe we are still someone great. Some of us won’t be able to let you know how much we love you, as our injuries are too severe and no longer allow us to speak. But we don’t have to. You know in your heart of hearts that we love you. Mighty Moms. Please take time today for yourself. You are not alone.

 

To the Mothers Who Are Grieving …

GoldStarMotherMemorialThose who have not lost a child will never know the unbearable pain that you have suffered. We can only promise to remember, to pray for your family, and to hope that as each day passes, you’ll smile a little more as you remember.

On behalf of a grateful nation, we honor you most of all.

 

 Please join us in wishing Moms all over the world a very Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

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Together we answer the call. Together, we are stronger – and our military families are stronger.

Our military is the best model of teamwork, without exception.

It starts on day one of basic training. What is the most important thing new recruits need to learn? How to work together as a team. It’s important to their success and their survival. And getting there takes work. But once they function as a cohesive unit, enemies fall, lives are saved and battles are won.

Together, they answer the call. For better or for worse, they are in it, side by side. But it goes beyond that.

With a common goal and shared sacrifice, bonds form that last a lifetime. Veterans who we have spoken to in our mission often mention that one of the toughest parts of trading military life to become a civilian is the loss of the comradery, the bonds, and the mission. That kind of connection is tough to find outside the military.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” At Operation Homefront, we are one of many dedicated organizations supporting our military, veteran and wounded warrior families. Each has a unique mission and varying programs: addressing suicide prevention, advocating to our elected leaders, raising awareness of the challenges of a life in service. We are on the same path to a common goal…to honor and serve those who sacrifice so much for our country.

Operation Homefront can’t serve every need that military and veteran families have. Their challenges and situations are as unique and varied as they are. That’s why it is important to work together with other military and veteran service organizations so that the safety net of support extends as deep as it does wide.

While we work with MANY organizations and government agencies, we have some level of formalized collaborative relationships with the following:

100K Homes

American Legion

Auxiliary

American Red Cross

Armed Services YMCA

BBB Military Line

Code of Support

Clearpoint (Credit Counseling Services)

Feed The Children

Give-An-Hour

Goodwill Industries International

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Kids In Distressed Situations

National Military Family Association

Military Child Education Coalition

Mission Continues

MOAA

Operation Gratitude

Our Military Kids

Semper Fi Fund

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

USA Cares

Wounded Warrior Project

Yellow Ribbon Fund

We can’t say enough how proud we are to work together with others to help military families. Take some time to learn more about their work, and you will find powerful stories of families that were helped, crises that were avoided, or lives that were pulled back from the brink of going hungry or homeless, or both.

Together we answer the call. Together, we are stronger – and our military families are stronger.

vets-day_blog_thumbWhile we have formalized partnerships with the organizations listed above, it is certainly not an all-inclusive list of organizations who do great things for military families. That list would be much longer. There are many amazing small and large non-profits who step up in many ways to answer the call to help military families.

 

 

Find out more about how you too can answer the call to help military families at www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall .

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It is hard to find the words to describe what happens when a life is extinguished. Even harder, it seems, when that life was taken.silhouette-wounded

So it was with shock that I learned this week that another talented, gifted, and beautiful soul had convinced himself the world would be better off without him. Because this person was famous, there was a cyber-shockwave that reverberated through the social media world. But as palpable as that shock was, and the depth of the emotions being felt worldwide, nothing comes close to what those who were closest to him were feeling.

I know a little bit about that feeling. Because 30 years ago, a young man, full of life and a bright future, was found in a field, not far from his home, in the early evening hours. With a gunshot wound to his head.

That young man was my brother’s best friend. Athlete, class officer, with a smile that melted all the girls’ hearts. And despite how close they were, my brother still had no idea that his friend had slowly convinced himself that the world would be better off without him.

He was 14.

No matter how many years pass, and how many lives are lost, one never gets past the memory of that pain.

Along with those memories often comes a feeling of defeat, of resignation. “Not again.”

It is a resignation that creeps into the minds of many of us who work in the military and veteran communities every time one of our own loses the battle with their pain. Posts in social media in the wounded veterans’ community spoke of avoiding the news, of trigger alerts and warnings, of fears past and current. And sadness.

It is believed that 22 veterans take their lives every day in this country. Each one extraordinary, one of a kind. They leave behind shattered hearts and, often, more questions than answers.

But as quickly as it comes, that resignation turns to determination. A need to ensure this doesn’t happen again. And while it does, and it will, we can’t stop working towards the goal of preventing suicide among our men and women in uniform and our veterans.

So please, from someone who has experienced the indescribable pain that suicide causes to loved ones and friends, I ask that everyone hammer home that help is available. Sometimes it may seem you are shouting into the wind…but someone may hear you. It could be that 14-year-old teenager. Or 63-year-old. Or a veteran for whom war has taken the spark of the soul, and who feels that the only way to tend the pain is to end their life.

Here are some resources to share:

Veterans Crisis Hotline

Real Warriors

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

IAVA Campaign to Combat Suicide

DCOE Outreach Center

Military Crisis Line

“Survival is your strength not your shame.” – T. S. Eliot

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Mom, when thoughts of you are in our hearts, we are never far from home. ~Author Unknown

momblog1It’s Mother’s Day, and we want to give a little extra love to the Moms of our military men and women. We asked Mothers to reflect on their sons’ and daughters’ service, and what they shared with us will touch the hearts of all Moms:

Kristin shared, “Our son is stationed in Alaska. I miss him every day, but I’m so incredibly proud of the man he has become. We cried a lot when he told us he was enlisting, even though we knew it was a great choice for him. He’s always wanted to be a soldier. My advice: Support your military child 110%! Respect the journey. Go to graduation, be available when they call, obey the rules and be encouraging! But mostly: PRAY. For your soldier, pray for our country, the men and women who serve, those who have served, their families, and for our leaders.”

Dawn has a son and daughter serving, and her youngest son is set to join the Navy. She writes, “I AM A MILITARY MOM ANmomblog2D PROUD TO SAY SO! My children are successful, strong, kind, intelligent, and independent young individuals! What more can a parent ask for? I love my children and although I miss them all so very much and wish I could see them more than once in a great while, I carry them all in my heart and prayers every day. It is not easy letting your children go but it is easier letting them go when you know that they are doing something they love and are successful at. I carry the fear of seeing my children in harm’s way but know they carry with them, not only the pride and confidence I have in them but that their country has in them as well. It doesn’t stop the tears of having them so far away or the fears you carry into your sleep at night but God granted me the privilege of having these children and raising these children and now He watches over them when I cannot.”

And as proud as all of them are on seeing their sons and daughters transform into fine young men and women in service to the nation, a part of Mom will always see you as that little boy or girl. All the more difficult when they have to send them off to war. Karin shared just that thought. She wrote a poem for her son “to always have no matter where he goes”. The last stanza reflects the emotions shared by many Moms:

momblog3

I will fly this flag and think of you

Knowing you must do what you do

My heart is filled with pride and joy

But to me you will always be my little boy

 

 

 

momblog4We also ask that today, you hold a little nearer to your heart the mothers who have suffered immeasurable loss, either on the battlefield or when the war came home with their children. Our hearts broke when Sarah shared, “Last Mother’s Day was the last day I kissed my son, hugged him, this Mother’s Day is my first birthday without my only son. Michael took his life May 20th, 2013. He had PTSD”. (24/7 help is available for military, veterans and their families. Call 1-800-273-8255, press “1”)

No matter how old we get, or how many years and tours we do, it’s clear our Moms will always be Moms. They will worry. They will shed a tear, often at the same time as a smile. They will pray for our safety and the safety of our brothers and sister in arms. Sometimes, they will scold us, especially when we don’t call or write, though they understand when we can’t. And they will always have our back, keep a light on in the window, look forward to the day we’ll come strolling through the door, and be ready to smother us in hugs.

Thank you, Moms, for all you do to support your sons and daughters, and in return, we promise to honor their service and support them any way we can.

PS: Call Your Mom!

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gayeisenhausermurphygoodeMother of  fallen soldier Gay Eisenhauer has been selected as Murphy Goode Winery’s February Hero of the Month. Nominated by her childhood friend, Jesse, herself the wife of a injured veteran, Gay’s story is deeply moving and inspiring.

In 2005, Gay’s son Wyatt was killed by an IED in Iraq at the age of 26. When his body was brought home, Gay was shocked – “I can’t tell you what it was like to drive up to the airport and see Wyatt being brought out with a forklift, the casket teetering,” she said.

She went on to lobby for a national law that requires those who die in service to be flown home on a military jet. Their caskets must be draped with a flag and accompanied by an Honor Guard. The law went into effect in January 2007.

As Jesse wrote, “Gay attends funerals of fallen heroes, reaches out to Gold Star families, and helps to raise awareness and funds to benefit service members and veterans. Gay founded the Wyatt D. Eisenhauer Memorial Fund, awarding scholarships. Annually she organizes a ride to honor our service members and hosts a Run For the Fallen Event. It’s not about how long he lived but how he lived. I am a believer in paying it forward. Wyatt made the ultimate sacrifice to “Pay it forward,” a trait he certainly learned from his mother! For that she is my hero!”

Gay has chosen the Wyatt D Eisenhauer Memorial scholarship fund as her chairty of choice, with a matching 1000.00 given to Operation Homefront.

In case you haven’t heard, Murphy Goode is looking for a Few Goode Heroes. They want to hear about the people who are making a difference in your community. Nominate your hero by submitting a photo and a 250 word essay. One monthly Hero will be selected through fan votes and a team of judges to receive a donation to the charity of their choice*, and Murphy-Goode will make a matching donation to one of our heroes, Operation Homefront.

One grand prize hero will win a 4th of July BBQ in their hometown, sponsored by Murphy-Goode and catered by their Grill Sergeant!

murphygoodeheroes

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