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Archive for the ‘Gold Star Families’ 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.”

 

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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, Region 1 Advisory Board member Danny Chung, and our National Board of Directors.

 

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.

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A Marine greets his family at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., Nov. 21, after returning from a seven-month deployment. The Marine is assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, which supported combat operations in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Terry Haynes III

Dare we say it? Thanksgiving is one of the remaining holidays with a clear central purpose. Consider the things you are thankful for … and eat! For years and years, and to this day, our nation has yet to veer from the main goal of Thanksgiving. We gather, we consider our blessings and we partake of a glorious meal. (And Operation Homefront is honored to provide Holiday Meals for Military, like our recent events in Texas).

Retailers may try to invade, starting Black Friday sales earlier every year…but Americans hold fast to this turkey-licious tradition.

And when we consider all that we have to be thankful for, our military is always at the top of our short list! We’re fairly certain that whether your family serves in the military or not, you are likely to take a moment today to be grateful for the men and women who miss many a holiday, including Thanksgiving, to ensure their fellow Americans can rest easy at night. We do.

So, share this with your family today.

Here are 3 reasons to be thankful for our military. These may not be the first time you’ve considered them, but Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to truly appreciate those who serve in our Armed Forces.

Two children excitedly welcome home their father and the crew of the attack submarine USS Norfolk from a six-month deployment during a homecoming ceremony on Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Williams

1. What they’ve missed. There is a reason we all love military homecoming videos. Unless you’ve experienced, you can’t completely understand the feeling of leaving those you love behind. Or the joy of returning home to them. Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday many of our service members have spent on foreign soil in unfamiliar surroundings. Those are moments with sons, daughters, spouses and family that can never be recovered. For every peaceful day Americans get to experience with loved ones nearby, we have our military to thank.

2. Courage in the face of the unknown. Those who serve have a mission. They work as a unit. But the whole point of having a strong military is outmaneuvering those who threaten the freedoms we enjoy. While they are trained for difficult situations, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause a certain amount of trepidation – for the service members and their families who may not sleep from the weight of worry. But our service members persevere through those hard days. And for those who carry the wounds of war, they are on a journey with an unknown conclusion. They have certainly earned our support.

Pfc. Jordan Wagner, an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, greets loved ones during a homecoming ceremony at Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

3. They choose to serve. Only about 1 in 4 of those between the ages of 17-23 years qualify for military service. And because we have a volunteer force, of those who qualify, not everyone wants to serve in our military. Thank YOU to the brave men and women who chose a hard but noble way to spend your youth. You did it for your future but mostly, you did it for all of us!

For all you do, thank you!

Join Operation Homefront in our mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families through our Giving Strength initiative. This holiday season, we want to give strength to our military and veteran families. We’ve compiled a list of ways you can support, honor and serve our military.

A few easy ways:

1. Send a message of appreciation to our military.

2. Use our new Facebook frame to show that you join us in giving strength to our military.

3. Sign up to be a volunteer.

4. Give a gift in support of our military through one of our current needs.

May you and all our service members, veterans and their families, have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for all you do to keep our country strong.

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Fire up your keyboards and help us honor the achievements and contributions of our country’s military children.

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® awards.

Now in its 10th year, our prestigious award will recognize 7 outstanding young people ages 13 to 18. Anyone can nominate. And we mean anyone: Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents, besties, teachers, pastors, coaches, neighbors, employers…you name it. Let’s rally and share the stories of our amazing military kids.

New or never heard of Military Child of the Year? Well, here are some details:

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

To give you an idea of some of those challenges, the average Military Child of the Year® Award Nominee has moved four times or more and experienced at least one parent deploy for a combined 29 months or more*. (And we have recipients with dual military parents!)

Some of our past Military Child of the Year® award recipients have dealt with serious and life threatening health issues, suffered loss, become caregivers to wounded parents, or stepped up in major ways to support their families through deployments and multiple relocations.  All the while, the stellar young men and women have maintained excellent grades, often with honors, excelled in sports, theatre and/or music, held leadership positions in school and community groups, and volunteered tremendous hours to causes near and dear to them.

You can read more about past recipients here.

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

Recipients of the MCOY awards will receive $10,000 and a trip to DC for our special awards gala (see pics from last year). The recipient of the Innovation Award will receive $10,000, a trip for DC for the gala and assistance from Booz Allen Hamilton to advance their project.

Nominate today your favorite military kid today!  Help us promote it  on Facebook and Twitter so we can reach as many families as possible.  Use #MCOY2018 to join the conversation. Deadline to apply is Dec. 4, 2017.

We can’t wait to be inspired by your nominations!

*2017 nominee average

 

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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 2016 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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