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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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As an Air Force child living in Europe for over a decade, Eve Glenn gained an appreciation for other cultures, people from diverse backgrounds, the importance of serving others around the globe, and … garlic mayonnaise?

All her hard work putting others before herself, and studying science, technology, engineering and math must make her hungry. When asked about traditions she has held onto from places she lived, Eve said the aioli condiment enjoyed in Germany, France, Spain, Turkey and other countries has become a staple in their Tampa, Florida, home near MacDill AFB.

Not that the 2018 Air Force Military Child of the Year® Award recipient spends much time thinking about her gastronomic preferences. A standout high school senior, she’s usually too busy acing tests, volunteering, tutoring and competing in cheer and Irish dance.

If it ever starts to feel overwhelming, or when military relocations seem challenging, Eve relies on family and friends to keep her focused. “I strive to succeed in every scenario despite external and internal obstacles that may hinder success,” she said. She also depends on the “strongest mental armor” she began forging when her father, Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Glenn, deployed to Iraq while she was in second grade, one of many lessons in the “art of resiliency.”

Eve’s favorite place to live was Stuttgart, Germany. There she met other high school students interested in STEM subjects, observed surgeries at a local hospital, and researched bacteria with a teacher. Her experiences have made her proud to represent military children: “Living abroad and befriending teenage Syrian refugees, German students and American peers; the opportunity to have such a diverse friend group stems directly from being a military child. I am most proud to be a military child because of the opportunities it has given me to embrace and continue learning to become a more worldly citizen.”

Eve is modeling herself as a leader on her parents. She respects her father and other service members, asking if it were not for their “commitment and eagerness to travel wherever the United States required assistance, who would protect and preserve freedom over the hostilities of oppression and injustice?”

She credits her mom, Lori Glenn, with helping her develop a positive outlook. “I aspire to be as motivated and determined as she is one day,” Eve said.

Her continued dedication will benefit her future, and likely have a positive impact on many other people too.

“As a leader, being a product of the military community has given me an opportunity to see the world through less selfish eyes, my instant connection to any new location.”

See highlights from Eve’s long list of achievements:

Meet all of our seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year® recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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Avid reader Shelby Barber draws inspiration from a favorite author, the always quotable John Green of “The Fault in Our Stars” fame.

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” This line from Green’s novel, “Abundance of Katherines,” is among the quotes that speaks to Barber, who received the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation for her idea to help severe allergy sufferers, especially young children, administer medication more easily. The Operation Homefront award is presented by global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which will assign a team to help her develop a plan for scaling her project.

Shelby also likes this Green quote from “Turtles All the Way Down”: “You’re both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You’re the narrator, the protagonist, and the side-kick. You’re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody’s something, but you are also your you.”

Shelby says the statement addresses people’s potential. “We are all so much more than we think we are, but so many people depend on everyone else around them, when we all have so much strength inside,” she said.

Perhaps Shelby admires Green not only for his writing, but for his philanthropical efforts, his willingness to discuss his own obsessive-compulsive disorder to help destigmatize mental illness, and the free, educational YouTube channel he co-created with his brother, Hank. The brothers’ Project for Awesome has raised millions of dollars for numerous charities that “decrease the overall level of world suck.”

Like Green, Shelby, a high school senior, aspires to make change and give back. She volunteers for organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and March of Dimes, and received The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Young Womanhood Recognition for establishing “a pattern of progress in your life,” “serving others, and developing and sharing your gifts and talents.”

Shelby is a proponent of making military families and children more aware of all the resources available to help support them. She remembers realizing her life as a military child was different from civilians’ in middle school, “when peers didn’t want to be my friend because they knew I would be moving.”

Sometimes, outsiders get the wrong idea about what military life is like. It does not necessarily occur to them how difficult and challenging it can be — for both the child and the parent — when a parent is deployed for months, or how lonely it feels to move far from relatives and friends. “People just see the benefits and they assume it’s just easy and it’s not,” Shelby said.

Her father’s service is “an example of selflessness as my dad is willing to sacrifice his own life for others,” she said of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Barber. “He has spent countless months away from us and does it because he wants to serve his country.”

That’s why Shelby advises other military kids to “make goals and follow through on them regardless of where you move to and who you have around you.”

After all, living in another country or on a distant base can be one of the best advantages of military life, Shelby said, helping families become more culturally aware and familiar with world affairs. She has loved living in Hawaii and England, where she discovered a new breakfast treat, crumpets.

Shelby, who wants to be a cardiac surgeon, may have her mother to thank if she realizes that goal someday. Elizabeth Barber taught her daughter the value of diligence, and “if you want something you have to work for it.”

See highlights from Shelby’s long list of achievements:

Meet all seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year® recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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Rebekah Paxton was forced to grow up quickly.

Our 2018 Army Military Child of the Year® Award recipient, Rebecca was confronted first-hand with the wounds of war when her father was injured as a combat medic in the 82nd Airborne Division. He served 19 years and, now medically retired, suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. He is also a cancer survivor.

Coming to her family’s aid as a de facto third parent, Rebekah has spent much of her childhood caring for herself and for her younger brother and sister. She fed them, prepared them for school every morning, and took them to sports practices and games.

Rebekah has used the trial as fuel to motivate her toward a better future. Currently aspiring to become a neurosurgeon, she competed in three subjects for two years with the University Interscholastic League and earned the Medical Science Award of Excellence. “I have grown up at the Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio and I fell in love with the medical field. After I finish my residency I would like to apply for Doctors Without Borders and take two years helping other people worldwide,” she said.

As she has made college plans, Rebekah has set her sights on someday raising awareness of the plight of wounded veterans and their families. It’s no surprise that giving back is a big part of Rebekah’s past, present and future. Rebekah arrives at a life of helping others naturally. It’s in her DNA. Members of her family have served in the military from the Civil War to present day.

“Personally, I believe there is not enough support for military kids (and) families. I have (had to learn) how to cope with my father’s military-related injuries alone. Not many people outside my family realize what we have gone through in this process and I believe no one really wants to know what goes on. I believe civilians do not understand completely what it is like to have a service member come home from the terrors of war,” said Rebekah.

In addition to her passions, Rebecca has a heavy academic load, taking advanced placement courses as well as dual enrollment courses at Missouri Southern State University. Yet she still has time to pursue athletics and serve her community wherever possible. She is a varsity athlete in three sports, and has volunteered hundreds of hours working with children and faith groups. She was editor for the school yearbook and a writer for the school newspaper.

Rebekah certainly has risen to the many challenges her family has faced, and her life is an example of the quote that inspires her:

If all struggles and sufferings were eliminated, the spirit would no more reach maturity than would the child. (Elizabeth Elliott)

“I realize that what I have gone through during these trials have made me better. When I was in my toughest moments I did not believe that I would come out if those times okay. But God has been there the whole time and has given me an opportunity to do amazing things in life,” said Rebekah.

See highlights from Rebekah’s long list of achievements:

Meet all of our seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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Recipient_AirForce_Sarah_Hesterman

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.

sarah_hesterman_kids

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.

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Operation Homefront is proud to announce the semi-finalists for the 2015 Military Child of the Year® Award. These young men and women, ages 8-18, are making BIG impacts in their communities, not just in the US, but globally.  All while juggling the challenges of military life. Truly inspiring.

Join us in congratulating:

ARMY

Joseph C. – age 14 – Colleyville, Texas

Leslie C. – age 17 – Colorado Springs, Colo.

Johnily C. – age 11 – Nolanville, Texas

Savannah H. – age 15 – Coal Valley, Ill.

Haleigh H. – age 17 – Cadiz, Ky.

Amanda L. – age 17 – Watertown, N.Y.

Lorelei M. – age 9 – Duncannon, Pa.

Cavan M. – age 13 – Duncannon, Pa.

Grant N. – age 14 – West Point, N.Y.

Elizabeth O. – age 16 – Fuquay Varina, N.C.

India P. – age 17 – Appling, Ga.

Elisabeth P. – age 12 – Honolulu, Hawaii

Abigail P. – age 17 – Clarksville, Tenn.

Christian S. – age 17 – Seaford, Va.

Rachel S. – age 17 – Dahlonega, Ga.

 

AIR FORCE

Joel B. – age 16 – Dover, Del.

Andre B. – age 17 – Tampa, Fla.

Jacob D. – age 16 – Norman, Okla.

Meaghan F. – age 17 – Beavercreek, Ohio

Sarah H. – age 16 – Doha, Qatar

Andrew L. – age 17 – Laurel, Md.

Jordyn M. – age 8 – Trussville, Ala.

Bethany M. – age 16 – Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

Gabriella M. – age 17 – Tucson, Ariz.

Kristen R. – age 17 – Osan, Korea

Bridget R. – age 16 – Burke, Va.

Eddie S. – age 14 – Beavercreek, Ohio

Angelo S. – age 17 – Hainesport, N.J.

Caleb Y. – age 16 – Enid, Okla.

David Z. – age 16 – San Antonio, Texas

 

COAST GUARD

Bryn B. – age 17 – Washington, D.C.

Jesse C. – age 17 – Port Angeles, Wash.

Mary Kate C. – age 15 – Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Emily C. – age 17 – Durham, N.H.

Ryan D. – age 11 – Wrightstown, N.J.

Madison F. – age 16 – Southgate, Mich.

Keegan F. – age 16 – Fairhaven, Mass.

Shyanne G. – age 17 – Onancock, Va.

Olivia K. – age 17 – Grangeville, Idaho

Marissa K. – age 15 – Grangeville, Idaho

John K. – age 12 – Grangeville, Idaho

Kylie M. – age 13 – Hamilton, N.J.

Ernesto M. – age 15 – Ashburn, Va.

Chase M. – age 16 – Mobile, Ala.

Caleb P. – age 18 – Pembroke Pines, Fla.

 

MARINE CORPS

Ashton B. – age 12 – Albany, N.Y.

Brianna C. – age 13 – Hill Air Force Base, Utah

Corey C. – age 16 – Havelock, N.C.

Tori E. – age 17 – Mesa, Ariz.

Adriana E. – age 13 – Havelock N.C.

Brady J. – age 17 – Alexandria, Va.

Mary K. – age 17 – Henderson, Nev.

Samuel K. – age 17 – Barre, Vt.

Lyric N. – age 8 – Indianapolis, Ind.

Destiny O. – age 17 – Quantico, Va.

Christopher-Raul R. – age 17 – Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Cezar R. – age 17 – Waynesville, Mo.

Briley R. – age 13 – Saint Paul, Minn.

Emily S. – age 16 – New Kensington, Pa.

Faith S. – age 17 – Biloxi, Miss.

 

NATIONAL GUARD

Mabelle B. – age 11 – Winter Garden, Fla.

Rachel C. – age 18 – Wellesley, Mass.

Adam C. – age 17 – Newport News, Va.

Molly F. – age 14 – Pickerington, Ohio

Brandon G. – age 16 – Newburgh, N.Y.

Michelle G. – age 17 – Colorado Springs, Colo.

Christian G. – age 11 – Fresno, Calif.

Arial J. – age 16 – Lithonia, Ga.

Sara M. – age 17 – Chicago, Ill.

Lily M. – age 13 – Portland, Ore.

Zachary P. – age 16 – Warrensburg, Mo.

Kameron P. – age 16 – Norfolk, Va.

Colette S. – age 9 – Napa, Calif.

Brianna S. – age 13 – Oregon City, Ore.

Maggie W. – age 16 – Yardley, Pa.

 

NAVY

Carson A. – age 14 – San Diego, Calif.

Victoria B. – age 16 – Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Michael C. – age 16 – Alexandria, Va.

Hailey F. – age 8 – Bremerton, Wash.

Katherine H. – age 12 – Havelock, N.C.

Emily K. – age 17 – Ocoee, Fla.

Daniel K. – age 15 – Newport, R.I.

Katlyn L. – age 17 – Virginia Beach, Va.

Corbyn M. – age 17 – Honolulu, Hawaii

Autumn O. – age 17 – Aiea, Hawaii

Isabelle R. – age 10 – Jamul, Calif.

Brendan S. – age 18 – Niantic, Conn.

Brady S. – age 17 – Virginia Beach, Va.

Kenan T. – age 17 – Bahrain

Mariah W. – age 17 – New Bern, N.C.

 

2015 marks the seventh year Operation Homefront has presented the Military Child of the Year Award. Each semi-finalist will be interviewed by Operation Homefront staff, and award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges including senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s Board of Directors, and other leaders in the military support community.

The Military Child of the Year® Award will be given to one outstanding military child from each category: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. Recipients will be announced in March. Each award will receive $10,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. for a special recognition ceremony on April 16, 2014.

To learn more, visit our Military Child of the Year Award page.

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