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Archive for the ‘Service Members’ Category

Jacob Richardson, wife Leanne, and kids Joshua and Emily, with family pet, Cupcake.

To become a good Army chaplain, Jacob Richardson wanted to learn about the Army and service members’ experiences from the ground up. So, with that in mind, Jacob enlisted two years ago.

This summer, the next step in his journey to chaplaincy begins as he transitions out of the Army, moves from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to Texas to become a full-time student at the Dallas Theology Seminary and his wife Leanne goes back to work.

All of those changes are difficult enough but with the stay-at-home orders because of COVID-19, the Richardsons could not visit the areas around Dallas to find a home. The family found the stability they were looking for in Operation Homefront’s Transitional Homes for Community Reintegration (THCR) program.

Since 2018, THCR has helped families who are transitioning out of the military. The program added a home in Fate, Texas, a small-town just 40 minutes away from downtown Dallas. Leanne was already familiar with Operation Homefront programs like Back-to-School Brigade and Holiday Toy Drive so when the couple found saw the Texas THCR home so close where Jacob would be getting his master’s and she would be working in special education, they knew they had to apply. The Richardson family was accepted into the program and will move into the three-bedroom, two-bath home this summer.

“I feel a lot more comfortable with this,” Leanne said, than the option of trying to get housing without seeing the area. “I am definitely feeling blessed that we were chosen.”

Through THCR, the couple and their two children, Joshua, 7, and Emily, 4, will live in the home for two to three years. Jacob will work with a financial advisor to help them fully transition into civilian life and save money to buy their own home once they leave the program. The program is made possible with a generous donation from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation.

Jacob thanked the donors who make the program possible.

“We don’t know what we would have done otherwise,” Jacob said. “This transition period for us, with us switching roles for our family, and COVID definitely kind of threw a wrench into it, this certainly brought some peace to this whole process.”

Leanne added that it was a way to help them focus on getting their children settled, especially since she would be going back to work.

“Having this figured out and knowing the house we are going into, knowing it’s going to be a good one, that’s livable and safe, brings a lot of peace to our minds,” she said.

During his time in the Army, Jacob deployed for about a year to Syria. His time in the Army is not his first time in the service. He had been enlisted in the Marines for two years starting in 2006.

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Nathan Nenninger was in sixth grade when the Sept. 11 terrorist attack occurred. The event impacted him so greatly that when he was about to graduate high school, he joined the Army National Guard.

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That was 11 years ago, and since then, Nathan has spent much of his service on active duty orders, including deployments to Afghanistan in 2016 and a recent deployment to Iraq in 2019. He just returned to his wife and three kids from the Iraq deployment and was set to begin new orders on April 1.

Those orders were put on hold because of COVID-19. Then some of the family’s financial struggles at home surfaced and he started worrying about paying his bills. He was already behind because the military had mistakenly paid him too much and they garnished part of his recent checks. He started looking at possible overseas contracts—anything to be able to pay his bills.

He received a list of resources from the Army National Guard and found Operation Homefront. He applied  to the Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program and was relieved to receive the support. Thanks to our generous donors, Nathan was able to pay more than $3,300 in rent and utilities.

“Operation Homefront has really helped me pull myself out of that hole,” he said. “It could have spun way more out of control than it did. To the donors being able to supply the funds, I don’t have words for it. It really did make all the difference in the world for me and my family. We didn’t lose the house or have utilities shut off.”

Nathan said now he will not have to worry about whether his family is taken care of as he proceeds to St. Louis on orders to help Missouri in their fight against the novel coronavirus.

“At this point, I’ve secured these orders. Operation Homefront really was that conduit, that in between piece. I got home from Iraq and due to this worldwide pandemic, I couldn’t go straight to work. Being the sole provider with three kids, I just did not know where to turn, and Operation Homefront and your donors stepped up. They provided that buffer and made all the difference, especially for my wife and kids.”

The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on our nation’s military families.  Over the past two months, Operation Homefront has seen a significant increase in requests for financial assistance. We are doing our best to serve those who have been there for us in our country’s time of need. It’s our turn to be there for them. The military families we seek to serve need us now, more than ever. View a message from our CEO to learn more or visit our website and give to a current need today!

If you’re a military family in need of assistance, please go to www.operationhomefront.org and click on Get Help Now.

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We are pleased to share with you today some words from our President and CEO, John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.) on this year’s Military Child of the Year Awards recipients and why it so important to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our military children and why we want to make this moment as special as possible for our 2020 recipients at this challenging time:

Although we, as a nation, are still struggling with the unprecedented challenges brought on by a global pandemic, it is important for all to look for bright spots to show the promise of a brighter future. At Operation Homefront, I don’t need to look any farther than this year’s honorees for our Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards.

These prestigious awards are designed to recognize the amazing achievements of seven of our nation’s military teenagers who have excelled at home, in school, and in their communities through their leadership, volunteerism, scholarship, and extracurricular involvement, all while working with parental deployments, relocations, and the many other challenges that often characterize military family life.

Normally, we would have had the opportunity to recognize our award winners at our “big event” – our annual gala – held every April, in Arlington, Virginia. However, because of COVID-19, and the need to do our part to ensure the safety of all our guests and to comply with the federal and state public health guidelines, I canceled this year’s celebration.

That said, I knew we couldn’t sit idly by and let an opportunity to showcase some exceptional young people pass so I am proud to say that the show will go on with our virtual celebration of these extraordinary representatives of the millions of military kids who serve our great nation alongside their parents.

All at Operation Homefront firmly believe taking time to celebrate our MCOY winners – no matter the venue or platform – is a “must do” type event. Having grown up in a military family, and after serving for over 27 years in the Air Force, I understand the challenges that our military families experience. Faced with the uncertainty of frequent short- or no-notice moves and deployments, it can be difficult for military kids to focus in school, to feel connected to their community, and to develop close friendships. That is why I believe it so important to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our military children and why Operation Homefront wants to make this moment as special as possible for our recipients.

President and CEO, John I. Pray, at our MCOY gala in 2019. Normally, we would have had the opportunity to recognize our award winners at our “big event” – our annual gala – held every April, in Arlington, Virginia. However, because of COVID-19, and the need to do our part to ensure the safety of all our guests and to comply with the federal and state public health guidelines, we canceled this year’s in-person celebration. However, we believe taking time to celebrate our MCOY winners – no matter the venue or platform – is a “must do” type event.

The accomplishments of our 2020 group, like all our previous winners, is in a word – impressive. Our judges selected the seven honorees from a very competitive field of more than 400 nominees. The seven represent each branch of service and our Innovation Award recipient. I like to refer to them as the “Magnificent Seven.”

Our 2020 MCOY winners are:

Kainath Kamil – Innovation Award
Fionnuala “Finn” Mahoney – Army
Niklas Cooper – Marine Corps
Miryam Smith — Navy
Samantha Grab — Air Force
Pierce Corson — Coast Guard
Kristina Lee — National Guard

 

Kainath, Finn, Niklas, Miryam, Samantha, Pierce, and Kristina all exemplify the spirit of selfless service that that not only improves lives in their communities but also offers hope for our future. They have logged over 2,080 volunteer hours in the past 12 months. Five of them are National Honor Society members, all of them take AP or dual college credit classes in school. Four are competitive athletes (swimming, volleyball, cross country, cheer) and five speak at least one language other than English.

They are caregivers to family members and leaders in sports and academia. They are ambassadors for mental health awareness, global issues, and the need for greater understanding of differences. They have used science and innovation to find solutions to world problems. Finn is even working with a team at the National Institutes of Health that is searching for a solution to COVID-19.

As we soak in all their achievements, there is little doubt why we must celebrate this very special and deserving group of military teens who represent that brighter future I noted earlier. Congratulations to all of you and to your families.

I would also like to recognize and extend a heartfelt thanks to our partners and supporters who have made our MCOY program possible:

• Our 2020 presenting sponsor, United Technologies (Pratt & Whitney); our Innovation Award sponsor, Booz Allen Hamilton; and our other event sponsors, Procter & Gamble, LaQuinta by Wyndham Hotels, PNC Bank, Veterans United Home Loans, Carnival Cruise Line, and Military Times

• Our MCOY judges, board members, OH staff and volunteers, and our two wonderful leaders the Military Child of the Year Award program, Jenny Valderas and Emily Miller.

The celebration continues as more stories and videos are coming – including congratulatory videos from John Heald of Carnival Cruise Line, and the country music sensation Runaway June, who were scheduled to perform. Also, while you may not meet our great MCOY recipients in person, you will get to hear the Magnificent Seven in their own words. So please stay tuned.

Please remember to share your congratulations and special messages with this year’s recipients at http://www.operationhomefront.org/mcoymessages.

View President and CEO, John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)’s message for the kick-off of virtual Military Child of the Year gala:

 

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Pierce Corson, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard, is dedicated to spreading mental health awareness for young people. The 17-year-old senior at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has conducted research published in a Harvard University-affiliated journal, and also donned a llama mascot costume for a parade while volunteering with a national nonprofit.

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That commitment, plus his leadership skills in academia and sports, were the top reasons that Pierce’s school counselor, volleyball coach and principal worked together to nominate him for the award. They are also traits found in the Corson family. He is the son of veteran Coast Guard Capt. Caleb Corson, who retired after 30 years of service, and Dr. Tyler Corson, a gerontologist. Pierce’s brother Roark was the 2018 MCOY recipient.

Pierce became interested in mental health issues due to his own struggles with stress from academic pressures, his father’s deployments, and nine family moves. He also saw stress in his friends at school.

He published a research project about mental health and stress among teens in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. Pierce also worked with the Virginia Department of Education committee to include mental health topics in the state standards of learning curriculum.

He has volunteered for more than three years with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Coastal Virginia affiliate, including serving as a panelist for NAMI’s Say it Out Loud program, which combats mental health stigma for teens.

Pierce loves learning languages. He is nearly fluent in Spanish and studied Mandarin at a local Chinese school where he met with his teacher for weekly tutoring and language exchange to help her learn English.

He was awarded a scholarship from the U.S. State Department and spent the summer studying Mandarin at Wenzao University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He said the flexibility he learned as a military child helped him succeed in his experiences abroad.

“I had to juggle attending classes for eight hours daily, multiple hours of homework, maintaining physical fitness for the upcoming volleyball season, and adjusting to a culture and lifestyle that was completely different to what I was used to,” Pierce said. “My saving grace ended up being the adaptability that I had acquired as a result of so many military moves. I was able to quickly find a rhythm in daily life and form strong habits and a social network that took a lot of the pressure off of me and allowed me to flourish for the duration of the scholarship.” Coast Guard_Pierce Corson 2

Pierce is a talented athlete who helps develop younger players on his volleyball team. He enjoys weightlifting, Chinese calligraphy, customizing shoes, speed-solving Rubik’s Cubes, and streaming Spanish and Mandarin TV shows. He plans on attending the University of Virginia next year as an Echols Scholar and pursue Chinese and International Relations.

Favorite quote: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” -from a poem by Dylan Thomas

Service/Leadership Highlights: 

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Volunteer
  • National Honor Society
  • STARTALK Volunteer
  • Tidewater Chinese School Volunteer
  • Andrew Food Bank Volunteer
  • Ocean Lakes HS Biology Club
  • Ocean Lakes HS Principal’s Student Advisory Board
  • Ocean Lakes HS Math and Science Academy Representative

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

Samantha Grab, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Air Force

Kristina Lee, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard

Kainath Kamil, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for Innovation

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As our 2020 Military Child of the Year for Innovation, Kainath Kamil, 16, wants to continue studying the genetic mechanisms of addiction—which means even more weekends with her fruit flies.

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A student at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, California, Kainath believes in the transformative power of innovation. She has already been published in three research journals regarding brain cancer, genetic engineering, and stem cells. Kainath plans to dedicate her life to helping people through research.

“I plan to have a profession in medicine so I may make a difference in health care,” Kainath said. “This could mean becoming a surgeon and quite possibly the United States Surgeon General. This could also involve creating a biotech company specializing in nanotechnology. Whatever I do I hope to make a substantial impact on society.”

She is currently working on an addiction research project with the San Diego Biomedical Research Institute. She first became interested in the process of addiction while volunteering at a soup kitchen and taking part in their rehabilitation program.

Scientists are aware that certain genes can increase the likelihood of addiction. Kainath, through her intensive research on the RNA and DNA gene sequences of fruit flies, wants to find the genes that are responsible for synaptic regeneration so that a person’s brain will not develop an dependency on addictive substances.

Kainath is the daughter of Navy Cmdr. Mohammad Kamil and Ayesha. She has a brother, Khalif, 15. Kainath said her father is her inspiration. Last year, the family was supposed to move, which would have been the family’s fourth, but he took a hardship assignment in Bahrain for a year to make it easier for the children’s education. While he was gone, Kainath read a climate report about the Amazon burning and how greenhouse gases will damage the planet. She wanted to make her dad proud and used her passion for science to genetically modify the bacteria Micrococcus luteus to absorb carbon dioxide and methane.

“As a thank you for my dad’s sacrifice, and as a way to harness my scientific abilities for the greater good, I conduct scientific research in hopes of discovering a breakthrough,” Kainath said.

In addition to her academic research, Kainath is a leader in many organizations in her community. She is the founder and president of the San Diego Youth Environmental Association. She raised $3,000 for the restoration of rainforests across the world. Her nonprofit organizes cleanups and builds greenhouses from plastic bottles. Recently, they made pouches for kangaroos orphaned by Australian fires.Innovation_Kainath Kamil_1

Over the past three years, Kainath has partnered with the San Diego Blood Bank and organized three blood drives at her high school which in total has received 150 donors.

Kainath also founded SoCal’s chapter of Students Together Assisting Refugees. She personally received a letter of commendation from CARE for clothing donations and Letters of Hope.

Favorite Quote: “Hands filled with stones cannot carry gold.” – Oprah Winfrey

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Founder/President San Diego Youth Environmental Association
  • Emperor Science Award (Cancer Research)
  • TEDx Speaker: February 2020
  • Battered Women’s Shelter Volunteer (SEED India)
  • Genius Olympiad (2019): Gold Medal in Science
  • Naval Medical Center: Camp Pendleton S2M2 Intern
  • Prudential Service Award/ President’s Service Award
  • UCSD Mentorship Assistance Program

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

Samantha Grab, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Air Force

Kristina Lee, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard

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Kristina Lee, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the National Guard, has worn the crown as Ohio’s Miss Teen Buckeye State, and she sported a different look when she campaigned for office at a SkillsUSA State Leadership Conference.

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The 18-year-old senior at Lee Preparatory High School and Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion, Ohio, had two black eyes, caused by a basilar skull fracture received when sparring with pugil sticks in her school’s criminal justice lab. She rolled with the look – referring to herself in her campaign speech as the raccoon in the room – and was elected as a regional officer.

It’s one example of how the student leader and honor student chooses perseverance in the face of adversity, including her brother’s death after a yearlong illness and overcoming PTSD after experiencing a violent crime in 2018.

At school, Kristina distinguishes herself in classwork and as a leader as she pursues dual tracks. She’s an honor student in academics at Lee Prep School, while at a career technical school, she excels in criminal justice and construction trades.

After high school, Kristina plans to continue on multiple tracks. She wants to serve an apprenticeship to become a heavy-equipment operator and join the Air National Guard to become a paramedic.

“I’ve always wanted to be a civil servant but realize that it’s hard to live on a civil servant’s salary. … With the help of a construction job, I will be able to afford to pursue a military/EMT/paramedic career as well,” she said. “Maybe further down the road, I would like to pursue political leadership, but I don’t want to do that until I have some real-life experience.”

Being a military child helped her develop a servant’s heart, she said.

“Military kids have the hearts and minds to serve others whether it be in their schools, communities, or even just their homes,” Kristina said. “This may be because they model after their military parents who have to both serve and sacrifice daily.”

Kristina amassed more than 500 volunteer hours in the past year, including organizing a Drug Free, Hire Me! rally that attracted over 600 students for a daylong event, which she also emceed. She also planned and executed a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser to benefit survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Kristina is the sixth of the eight children of Tammy and Col. Andrew Lee, a physician and a medical group commander in the Ohio Air National Guard. During her father’s deployments and trainings, Kristina helps her mom with her two younger brothers, including one with developmental delays who is nonverbal.

She communicates with him using sign language, which she also uses in volunteer work with special-needs children at her church through a ministry called PB&J, Precious & Beloved by Jesus.National Guard_Kristina Lee 2

In her spare time, Kristina enjoys drawing and painting, reading, swimming, obstacle course 5Ks, and lawn work.

Favorite quote: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’ ” – Erma Bombeck

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Construction Trades Academy Foreman
  • Angel Tree
  • SkillsUSA State Leadership Conference Officer
  • National Technical Honor Society President
  • National American Miss (NAM) Heart of Service state champion
  • SkillsUSA President
  • Honor Flight
  • Wings & Wheels

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

Samantha Grab, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Air Force

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Samantha Grab, our 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the Air Force, has brought light and happiness to so many around her through her music and positive attitude, especially during tough times. Her family’s nickname for her is Sunshine.

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She is the daughter of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Andy” Grab and Michelle Grab. Samantha, 18, grew up as one of three siblings but four years ago a tragedy changed their family forever when her older brother Nick, then 17, died by suicide.

His death was a challenge for everyone. At only 14, Samantha became aware of her own depression and ADHD. She relied heavily on her mother, who she says is her role model. Her mom helped them all cope with her father’s 20 months of deployments and the eight moves throughout his career.

Samantha also finds solace in music. She began playing the alto saxophone in fifth grade and also plays the French horn, piano, ukulele, and drums. A senior at O’Fallon Township High School, she was hand-picked by her music teacher for the school’s mentorship program. She also assists the fifth-grade music teacher in the classroom and through private lessons for the students.

Samantha has performed at a variety of military events, including performing the national anthem and the official Air Force song during a promotion ceremony for her father and then again during his retirement ceremony at Busch Stadium.

“I felt the happiest and most proud (of being a military child) when my Dad came home from his deployments,” she said. “It was very hard when he was gone, and I was filled with so much joy and excitement each time he came home.”

On one occasion, her dad surprised Samantha and her family in what she calls “the most amazing way.” He was deployed to Korea and not expected home for several months. Samantha, along with her mom, her brother, and oldest sister Elizabeth, was visiting family in Illinois. When they went to their favorite bakery Samantha’s dad was waiting for them behind the counter.

“Our minds were so preoccupied by what to eat that we did not realize our dad was standing right in front of us taking our order!” She said. “My jaw dropped, and I immediately ran up to hug my dad.”

Samantha enjoys helping others. She has volunteered more than 300 hours in the past 12 months, including as one of a few select retreat leaders with the Helping Open People’s Eyes (HOPE) program, an organization that helps teens overcome challenges of bullying, stereotypes, depression and difficulties at school and home.

She plans on attending Illinois State University and studying psychology so she can help children and teens struggling with mental health issues. Air Force_Samantha Grab_3

When she’s not busy with color guard performances, marching band competitions or playing music, Samantha enjoys watching movies, reading, drawing, cooking, and spending time with friends and family, especially her baby sister Sarah and her niece Marcy.

Favorite quote: “All I can be is me, whoever that is.” -Bob Dylan.

Service/Leadership Highlights:

•Helping Open People’s Eyes (HOPE)

•OTHS Mentorship Program

•Christ Church Children’s Ministry

•Karla Smith Behavioral Health

•Scott Air Force Base Centennial

•OTHS Marching Band

•OTHS Jazz Ensemble

•Elk’s Organization

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Miryam Smith, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Navy

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

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Miryam Smith, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Navy, remembers her father telling her that hard work pays off and that she could achieve anything she put her mind to. Those words have been Miryam’s motivation since her father, retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Eduardo Smith, took his own life in 2016.

Navy_Miryam Smith 2

The tragedy, she said, taught her resilience. Two days after her father’s devastating death, Miryam returned to school to finish up final exams, committed to living a happy, fulfilling life and maintaining the excellent grades her dad appreciated.

Now a 17-year-old senior at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she is seeing dividends from her hard work.

Miryam excels in her school’s Global Studies and World Languages Academy, and she looks forward to fall, when she will attend American University’s School of Foreign Service. She plans to study International Relations and possibly minor in Environmental Science.

Miryam, an only child, is the daughter of Macarena Smith, who works for the U.S. Marine Corps as a protocol officer.

Miryam’s three military moves with her family cultivated her fascination with other cultures and world travel.

“My favorite part of being a military child was the opportunities to travel to many places at a very young age,” she said. When stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, the family traveled throughout Europe. “One holiday weekend we decided to take a road trip to Prague in the Czech Republic, and I remember it as being one of my favorite ones.”

In all, Miryam has visited 23 countries, four of them on her own. On a trip to the Normandy region of France with her school, Miryam felt particular pride in being a military child.

As her group left a World War II museum close to one of the Normandy beaches, Miryam saw a cemetery filled with hundreds of perfectly aligned white tombstones that were decorated with American flags.

“I was overwhelmed with pride, for I had never seen so many American flags in my life. At that moment I realized how many brave soldiers had sacrificed their lives to help liberate France in the war,” she said. “Although my dad did not serve in World War II, I know he made several sacrifices for his country throughout his military career, and knowing that made me very proud to be his daughter.”

Miryam understands that military children might dread moving, with changing schools, making new friends, and adjusting to a new home in a new location. She urges them to keep an open mind. “It gives you the chance to meet new people, create new memories, and possibly learn more about other cultures.” Navy_Miryam Smith 1

Miryam invests time in her community, volunteering with the Be a Reader program to read to elementary school children and mentoring children at a shelter for the homeless.

She enjoys sailing small vessels and catamarans and finds stress relief in playing piano, frequently duplicating tunes she hears on the radio.

Favorite quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails.” – Mark Twain

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Events organizer, Global Studies and World Languages Academy International Cafes
  • Volunteer, Be a Reader program for elementary school children
  • Mentor, Care by Community
  • President Spanish Honor Society
  • Vice President Global Studies Honor Society
  • Varsity Swim Team
  • Student Athlete Leadership Training
  • Academic letter, Global Studies and World Languages Academy, 9th-12th grades

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

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When Niklas Cooper, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Marine Corps, shows up, he brings a big heart as a leader and volunteer in his community and as a student at Lejeune High School in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he is a junior.

Marine Corps_Niklas Cooper 2

In the past year, the 16-year-old dedicated more than 300 hours to mentoring, tutoring, and community projects while remaining devoted to academic and athletic excellence.

Niklas is the son of Mary and David Cooper, a Marine Corps first sergeant. He credits their support for his determination.

His success on the varsity track and cross country teams underscores his dedication and perseverance. As a freshman, Niklas worked to improve his cross country time, but a heart condition curtailed his running. Niklas was ineligible to participate in athletics after being diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy, an enlargement of part of the heart that causes high blood pressure.

Disappointed yet determined, Niklas served as the track team manager while doctors worked for a year to bring the issue under control. During his sophomore year, he was cleared to participate, and he developed strength and speed that helped his team win first in the region and seventh in the state.

“After I was diagnosed and my mom explained to my dad what it was, he responded with, ‘I always knew my son had a big heart.’ After hearing this, I took it literally and figuratively and started being more grateful for everything in my life,” Niklas said.

He developed resilience while growing up in a military family.

“Moving over six times in my life has required me to step outside of my comfort zone and learn to deal with change by viewing it as an opportunity rather than a hardship,” he said.

On his family’s fifth permanent change of station, Niklas organized a community debris cleanup around base housing soon after moving to Camp Lejeune. He has dedicated about 100 hours of community service to getting clearance and volunteers for the Camp Lejeune Project Cleanup.

When volunteering at Outdoor Odyssey in Pennsylvania, a camp for children of injured Marines, Niklas forged a bond with a camper that he has maintained ever since. Niklas continues to mentor the boy. As military children, they do not take their close bond for granted.

Niklas tutors his peers in Spanish and mathematics, and has earned recognition for achievement in advanced placement courses and for leadership in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, where he is cadet staff sergeant.

During his father’s three deployments– a total of 30 months – Niklas helped with his three younger sisters. After the final deployment, Niklas became inspired as his father reintegrated back into the family and went back to school.Marine Corps_Niklas Cooper 1

Niklas hopes to attend the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and become a linguist or international diplomat.

Favorite Quote: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit” – Napoleon Hill.

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Class President, freshman, sophomore, and junior years
  • Military Order of the World Wars, MCJROTC
  • Gold Presidential Service Award Medal, MCJROTC
  • National Honor Society
  • Founder, Camp Lejeune Cleanup Project
  • Volunteer and mentor at Outdoor Odyssey in Pennsylvania
  • Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor recognition
  • Varsity track team

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

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Fionnuala “Finn” Mahoney, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Army, is a resilient, adaptable teenager.  She proves that every day living with learning differences, being a caregiver for her grandmother, helping to rebuild her childhood home in New Hampshire, and being a military child who moved four times until her father was medically retired from the Army after being injured.

Finn, 18, is the daughter of retired Army Capt. Howard K. Mahoney and Shari Boibeaux, an engineer and caregiver. She is the youngest of three. Her oldest brother, Howard K. Mahoney II, 21, attends the U.S.  Military Academy at West Point and her second brother, Cormac A. Mahoney, 19, attends Cornell University where he is in the Air Force ROTC.

Finn’s dad is her role model and inspiration to help other military families.

“My dad has been in the Army since I can remember,” she said. “The week after 9/11, when my dad received his white lab coat as part of his military medical school program in Boston, he held me in his arms on the stage.  I was only a week old.”

After being injured, he spent two years at Fort Belvoir in the hospital and Wounded Warrior Battalion.

“I know what it is like to see the military members in the hospital and in recovery,” Finn said. “I would not change being part of the military, I am proud that my dad chose to be a military service member and that I get to be a military family member.”

She volunteers at Lamb’s Center in Fairfax, Virginia, which serves the poor and homeless, including a large population of veterans. She assists grieving families at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. Finn has also helped create an adaptive kayaking program with the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

A senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, Finn is proud to have a dad who helps with her schoolwork. She emulates his ability to overcome physical and physiological challenges to help others. She has started a nonprofit to give voice to teenagers before they can vote and she has proven to be a leader as part of her cheerleading squad.

As an intern in the Laboratory of Metabolic Control at the National Institutes of Health she has learned about biology, ketogenic and food-based technology. She is assisting with university-level research which involves the development of therapeutic ketones as part of special diets that can treat symptoms of epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease in low-income populations around the world.

Finn has traveled to 30 countries and her love of learning about different cultures and seeing new places has made her consider how she can improve public health around the world. She hopes to continue studying biology, clinical laboratory science or forensic science.

Favorite quote: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) volunteer
  • American Legion Auxiliary (ALA)volunteer/Girls State
  • Washington Hebrew Congregation Youth Group Leader (WHECTY)
  • Team River Runner Adaptive Kayaking for Wounded Warriors
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)Intern
  • Walt Whitman Cheerleading and Stunt Team
  • Olympiada of Spoken Russian Medalist
  • Rye Beach Swim and Dive Team Captain

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

 

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