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Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 2015 U.S. Army Military Child of the Year.

Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 2015 U.S. Army Military Child of the Year.

We continue our series on our 2015 Military Child of the Year recipients with getting to know Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, Military Child of the Year, U.S. Army.

Cavan believes that service changes lives, makes them better. And he certainly walks the talk.

In addition to the challenges of military family life, the moves, the deployments, the separations, Cavan has had to face so much more. His younger brother, Rory, passed away when Cavan was four. His sister, Lorelei, also has serious health issues, being born with a heart condition. And now Cavan is facing his own health challenges, requiring significant treatment that is often painful.

But rather than withdrawing and focusing on himself (which would be understandable), Cavan channels his experiences and struggles into empathy for others, particularly veterans. A trip to a state veteran’s home had a profound effect on him. He noticed that the patients were tired, lonely, and missing essential items. So he was inspired to make a difference for veterans, starting his own organization, Socks for Vets. This organization collects socks and other donated items and distributes them to wounded warriors. He regularly serves the homeless and hungry veterans in his area, and annually travels to the National Mall in D.C. to distribute thousands of thank you cards to veterans on Veterans Day. All while maintaining an impressive 97 percent GPA at school.

After a visit to a veterans home, Cavan became a fierce advocate for our nation's veterans.

After a visit to a veterans home, Cavan became a fierce advocate for our nation’s veterans.

Cavan has found a voice in writing, and his words often reflect a maturity well beyond his years. He uses his talents to encourage others to get involved in their community, to raise awareness of the challenges faced by our veterans and wounded warriors. Much of his writing reflects a deep appreciation for the freedom we enjoy thanks to the sacrifices of our military families, past and present.

Cavan is the oldest child of Army Capt. Steven Brewer and Michelle McIntyre-Brewer. He has three siblings, sister Lorelei (9), brother Killian (2) and his brother Rory (deceased). His mother is a medical and military advocate and educator, and his father is a medical detachment Commander at Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Catch up with our Military Child of the Year spotlight series:

“An unwavering role model in the face of adversity”-Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.C.G., Caleb Parsons.

“Her humility, kindness, and candor inspire everyone she meets” –Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.A.F., Sarah Hesterman.

“The focus and discipline to stay the course.”-Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.N., Emily Kliewer.

“A Great Deal of Heart” -Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.M.C., Christopher-Raul Rodriguez.

Learn more about Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for information about our gala and join us via livestream for the Military Child of the Year Award gala in D.C. on April 16, 2015.

Christopher-Raul Rodriguez, 2015 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year

We continue our series on our 2015 Military Child of the Year recipients with getting to know Christopher-Raul Rodriguez, Military Child of the Year, U.S. Marine Corps.

Christopher-Raul certainly has overcome a lot. Early on in his life, his mom had to make a heartbreakingly tough choice as a result of alcoholism and abuse from his biological father that threatened the entire family: to take Christopher and his two siblings out of the home. This meant time spent in women’s and homeless shelters. Rather than let this define him, Christopher knew this would not be the end of his story. When reading his nomination, we could see that he was not going to be alone in his pursuit of a different path, but that it was Christopher’s courage, strength and resiliency that would drive him towards his goals.

Christopher truly understands the impact that a mentor and role model can have on a young person’s life.

Flash forward, and the results of his determination and drive are evident. A 3.25 GPA student in Advance Placement courses, the hard lessons he learned from his early years are the ones that he uses to lift others up. As varsity team captain in soccer and basketball, he is credited as the lynchpin for the teams’ successes, keeping their morale up and truly defining the word teammate. As one who understands the impact that a mentor and role model can have on a young person’s life, he returns the chances he was given to others, volunteering with a group that connects special needs children with others who are not, and volunteering with Special Olympics.

Though Christopher attributes his success in overcoming his early years to his mother and stepfather, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Smith, his counselor is emphatic that it was Christopher himself that held fast to his promise to not take the path of least resistance offered by others who would see him compromise his standards. “I cannot emphasize enough that it was Chris who made the mature decisions, despite the chaos around him, to do the right thing. In an era of the “me” generation, Christopher is clearly more focused on those around him and the concept that he needs to be successful to honor his parents and to improve the world within which he lives.”

Chris’ future aspiration is to pursue a degree in Kinesiology and become an athletic trainer.

Christopher-Raul is the oldest child of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine and Griscelda Smith. He has one sister, Jazzlyn-Luz (14) and one brother Kilyn-Miguel (12). Griscelda is an on-base family childcare provider, and Jermaine is stationed at Camp Lejeune.

Catch up with our Military Child of the Year spotlight series:

“An unwavering role model in the face of adversity”-Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.C.G., Caleb Parsons.

“Her humility, kindness, and candor inspire everyone she meets” –Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.A.F., Sarah Hesterman.

“The focus and discipline to stay the course.”-Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S.N., Emily Kliewer.

Learn more about Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for information on how you can join us for the livestream of the Military Child of the Year Award gala in D.C. on April 16, 2015

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Emily Kliewer, 2015 Navy Military Child of the Year

We continue our series to celebrate our 2015 Military Child of the Year® recipients with getting to know Emily Kliewer, Military Child of the Year, U.S. Navy.

“The focus and discipline to stay the course.”

Many of us have that someone who is our rock, who gives us the strength to persevere and is our reason for excellence. For Emily Kliewer, that is her mom, Cynthia. That bond was only strengthened through many life-threatening crises as a result of Cynthia’s Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

The connection Emily has with her mother, and what they have faced as a family together, shines through not only in the strength she has to committing to do her best in every facet of her life, but also in her deep respect and empathy towards others. As the athletic director of her school expressed, “I have seen her work incredibly hard for personal gain yet never sacrifice the value of her relationships, particularly those in need.”

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A member and leader of multiple academic honor societies, Emily is on track to graduate valedictorian of her class.

And Emily does work incredibly hard. A member and leader of multiple academic honor societies, she is on track to graduate valedictorian of her class. She also rocks the pool, breaking records and swimming in her regional and state championships – multiple times. Any setback only makes her work harder. That kind of discipline, time management and drive speaks volumes. That Emily achieved this while also excelling in academics and carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders truly embodies what we see from our military children.

Not content to rest on her laurels, Emily gives back to her community by mentoring her fellow teammates as captain for the swim and dive team, sharing her love of swimming as a volunteer coach for Special Olympics swimmers, and assisting in a special needs classroom. She also takes time to give back to her military family by volunteering with the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society. It is her empathy and compassion for others that her friends speak of, even above her many accomplishments.

It has by no means been the easiest path for Emily, as her mom has had serious and frightening health challenges, particularly in the last year. But rather than letting those traumas hold her back, Emily has stayed the course.

The daughter of Navy Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) Kyle and Cynthia Kliewer, Emily is the youngest of three. Her older sisters are also making waves in the world. Kaitlyn (23) is currently earning her PhD in Civic Engineering at Princeton and Nicole (21) is graduating Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University.

 

Catch up with our Military Child of the Year spotlight series:

“An unwavering role model in the face of adversity”

“Her humility, kindness, and candor inspire everyone she meets”

Learn more about Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for information on how you can join us for the livestream of the Military Child of the Year Award gala in Washington, D.C. on April 16, 2015.

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Caleb Parsons, 2015 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year

Yesterday, we invited you to get to know this year’s honorees for the Military Child of the Year® Award by introducing you to the recipient for the U.S. Air Force, Sarah Hesterman. Today, we shine the spotlight on Caleb Parsons, our Military Child of the Year for the United States Coast Guard.

“An unwavering role model in the face of adversity.”

As any high school senior can tell you, their last year of high school can be both thrilling and frightening. One comes of age, chapters close, new ones are being written. You are heading into the seemingly vast place full of opportunities and obstacles that we call the “grown up” world.

As the son of parents who both serve, Caleb had to assume adult responsibilities quickly. In the fall, while his classmates were focused on SATs and college applications, Caleb had to assume considerable responsibility for himself and his three siblings. His father was assigned to Maritime Enforcement in Florida, and then his mother received orders to Qatar. Undaunted, and with the help of his grandparents and family friends, Caleb took on the responsibility with a courage and confidence that awed all who already knew what a consummate leader and service-oriented person he was.

Well before he stepped up to this challenge, Caleb was known as a natural leader. Twice, he had been chosen for leadership roles from among his fellow students – once even BY his fellow students – for roles that had traditionally been awarded to students with more seniority or experience. He juggled all of his leadership responsibilities in both family and community while maintaining a 4.28 GPA with considerable Advanced Placement coursework and competing as a varsity swimmer.

Caleb attributes the strength he has to assume all of the responsibilities to his faith, which is central to his life. Caleb’s courage and grace under extraordinary pressure made a significant impression upon our committee as a profound example of the leadership and resiliency that are common traits among our military children.

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Caleb has maintained balance between family commitments and leadership responsibilities while maintaining a 4.28 GPA doing advanced coursework and competing as a varsity swimmer.

Caleb’s future goal is to serve the country as a Special Forces officer, and he is the recipient of a Presidential Nomination (Service Connected) to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Caleb is the oldest son of Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Ward Douglas and Air Force Staff Sgt. Story Marie Parsons. His mother Story is currently deployed to Qatar, and his father is a Maritime Enforcement Specialist currently stationed in Florida. He has two younger brothers Isaac (16), Nathan (14), and younger sister Kyleah (9).

About Military Child of the Year: Recipients of the Military Child of the Year award are military children who have demonstrated themselves as exceptional citizens while facing the challenges of military family life. The average Military Child of the Year® Award Nominee has moved five times or more, experienced at least one parent deploy for 18 months or more, all while maintaining above average grades (often with honors), volunteering with service groups an average of 75 hours during the year, excelling in sports and theatre and /or music and holding leadership positions in school and community groups. The recipients are chosen by a selection panel made up of active-duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members.

Learn more about Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (#MCOY2015) for information on how you can join us for the livestream of the Military Child of the Year Award gala in Washington, D.C. on April 16, 2015.

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Sarah Hesterman, 2015 Air Force Military Child of the Year

Every year, the team at Operation Homefront looks forward to celebrating our military kids. From all corners of the United States and from far flung areas of the world, we hear from people who are excited to share their thoughts and experiences with a military child in their community, and who want the rest of the world to hear about them. And so begins the journey to select recipients for our Military Child of the Year® Award.

Let’s just say…the selection process for our committee is tough. Tough, but humbling, rewarding and energizing. We wish we could recognize more than the six awardees, because there are so many we can choose from. Every nomination highlights someone extraordinary. Their personality, who they are, really comes through in their achievements and recommendations. It was a challenge for our selection panel to make a final decision for the six recipients, but they fully admit that it was a good challenge to face.

As we approach the date for our awards gala in D.C., we’d like to invite you to get to know this year’s recipients and help us celebrate how extraordinary they are. We kick off today with our Military Child of the Year for the United States Air Force, Sarah Hesterman.

“Her humility, kindness, and candor inspire everyone she meets.”

Military children bloom where they are planted, and Sarah Hesterman is the very definition of this belief. When Sarah’s family was assigned to Qatar, she was propelled into a strange new world. But rather than stay within the confines of her military community, she stretched her wings. And she soared. She plunged into learning local customs and language, impressing those around her with her intellect and curiosity. She then took her new knowledge and used it to build bridges between allies, adult and children. Empowered by the impact she was already having on her world, and propelled by concerns of the challenges faced by girls the world over, Sarah started the Qatar chapter of The United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up program, dedicated to reaching out and supporting the needs and dreams of adolescent girls where they need it the most. That path took her eventually to presenting at summits, lobbying Congress and being selected as a Malala Girl hero.

“To say Sarah will be somebody great one day, that she’ll do and accomplish amazing things goes without saying, and takes away from the fact she is already an incredible young woman doing astonishing things now,” said Sarah Kinzer, a military spouse in Qatar who observed Sarah’s groundbreaking efforts for two years and nominated her for the award.

In addition to being an outstanding student of the world, Sarah is also an outstanding student in the classroom, maintaining a 3.8 GPA while taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses. And if all that wasn’t enough to wow us, she plays two instruments (clarinet and violin) and is a very good golfer.

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Sarah started the Qatar chapter of The United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up program.

Sarah plans to continue to pursue the cause of empowering girls on a global scale by working with the United Nations in promoting gender equality and developing her own nonprofit organization that provides access to education and resources for adolescent girls in situations of conflict.

Sarah is the only child of Lt. General John W. and Dr. Jennifer Hesterman. Her father is currently the Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia. He has been serving for 32 years. Her mother is a retired Air Force Colonel with 21 years of service and is currently a professor and author.

About Military Child of the Year: Recipients of the Military Child of the Year award are military children who have demonstrated themselves as exceptional citizens while facing the challenges of military family life. The average Military Child of the Year® Award Nominee has moved five times or more, experienced at least one parent deploy for 18 months or more, all while maintaining above average grades (often with honors), volunteering with service groups an average of 75 hours during the year, excelling in sports and theatre and /or music and holding leadership positions in school and community groups. The recipients are chosen by a selection panel made up of active-duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members.

Learn more about Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Mark your calendars and check back in the fall as we announce the nomination period for 2016.

TeamDepotBlog

Team Depot at work “Doing More for Vets” (from the Team Depot Facebook page)

Operation Homefront and The Home Depot have partnered to provide wounded warriors assistance with the costs of critical home repairs. We have been honored to work together to help wounded warrior families like Dawn and Joseph Puntam.  Soon after moving in to their new home, the family noticed water leaks. Dawn and Joseph were notified that a new roof would be needed in order to maintain home insurance. The family—with Dawn pregnant—started worrying how they could afford a new baby, and pay for roof repairs. Through The Home Depot Foundation funding, Operation Homefront was able to approve funding for the roof repair. The roof repairs were completed while Dawn gave birth to the couple’s second child. Their infant son named Russell, in honor of Joseph’s friend who was killed in action, was brought back to a cozy, safe home.

Read more about our work with Team Depot here, and help us spread the word that help is available.

To be eligible for the program:

(1) the service member sustained a post-9/11 service-connected wound/injury,

(2) the service member or spouse owns the property in question,

(3) the property is the family’s primary residence,

(4) the family is able to afford monthly mortgage costs and are current on the mortgage,

(5) the repairs are for the interior/heated living area of the home, and

(6) the repairs are not pre-existing to the purchase of the home.

Families interested in applying for this assistance should submit an application for financial assistance at www.operationhomefront.net and should be prepared to provide documentation related to the service member’s military service as well as the property in question.

 

 

Statistics and infographics can’t tell the story of military kids. A chart can’t truly convey the sacrifice nor the impact that military life has on our youngest patriots. They didn’t choose to serve, but they are born into a life that requires them to give up so much for all of America’s kids.

Ask any of our children and neighbors to talk about military children, and they aren’t going to come back at you with “Well, X percent of military children experience…”

military-child-month-operation-homefront-1What you’re more likely to hear is “my classmate Elizabeth” and “my student John.” Or “Olivia, my teammate” and “Leo, my neighbor.” But most often, they will say, “my friend.”

One of the reasons we host the Military Child of the Year® Award every year is to help bring their stories to you. To help you get to know the person that their classmates, teammates, friends and community know.

Nothing speaks more loudly than the nominations we receive from coaches, teachers, pastors; the people whose lives have been touched and enriched by them. How they are astonished by them, inspired by them. But most of all, you can tell they were enlightened by them.

A frequent topic of discussion in military communities is how to bridge the military-civilian divide. Our military kids are examples of just how to “get it done.” They are doing it every day. At school, at churches and non-profits, on the ball fields and playgrounds. Bringing their unique world views and talents to communities across the United States and the world. Military kids do all of this under extraordinary circumstances, and yet continue, every day, to be a friend, a teammate, a leader and a role model to all around them.

A connection that lasts a lifetime (Nicole and Abigail, two of our Military Child of the Year 2013 winners crossing paths in NYC)

A connection that lasts a lifetime (Nicole and Abigail, two of our Military Child of the Year 2013 winners crossing paths in NYC)

 

The Calebs and Sarahs, and our other recipients this year, all represent those silently serving that live among us…approximately 1.9 million military kids around the world. They achieve the highest goals every day while dealing with deployments and moves and joys and losses. While we are only able to select one per service branch and one National Guard representative per year, all honorees represent hundreds of military children doing extraordinary things. Many have stayed in touch with us and each other, in real life and through social media, and we could not be prouder to see them continue to grow, go off to college, and continue to be amazing.

 

As we kick off April as the Month of the Military Child, we invite you to take some time this month to get to know more about these extraordinary young patriots. Check back here as we share more stories and articles about them. And mark your calendars for the live broadcast of the Military Child of the Year® Award ceremony on April 16, 2015.

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