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Posts Tagged ‘Military Families’

Last year for Mother’s Day, Air Force mom La Toya Wall received four “crazy looking birdhouses” that each of her children made at a Home Depot workshop in Anchorage, Alaska. The workshop was among many La Toya took her kids to on weekends while her husband, Blake Jacob, was deployed to Kuwait during the first half of 2016.

m2h operation homefront mother military WallJacobFam“It actually helped pass the time while he was deployed,” she said. “It put me on a schedule, knowing that they had these events” to occupy Sidney, 11; Khloee, 10; Khodee, 4; and Storee, 3. Blake also has a 9-year-old daughter, Ryleigh, who lives in Arizona with her mother. “It was awesome,” said LaToya, who compared the workshops to Scouting because Home Depot gives the kids aprons, achievement certificates, and patches or pins for their aprons. “It helped out a lot.”

Creative solutions are one of the things La Toya is known for at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, where the family has been stationed since 2013. She also wows her friends as a cook, baker, seamstress, decorator and multi-family game night coordinator.

“We’re a nerdy family,” she said. “We have a lot of game nights,” lip synching karaoke battles and Iron-Chef-style competitions, even sending guests home with to-go boxes because she was tired of all her Tupperware disappearing.

La Toya’s family will celebrate her this Mother’s Day — Blake will cook breakfast and dinner, and take the family hiking — for many of the same qualities that military moms across the world are honored, including self-reliance, resilience and a can-do attitude.

“You don’t necessarily depend on other people,” she said. “Moving here has definitely helped me into allowing other people to help. I’m used to just doing things. You don’t just wait for someone to do it for you.”

For her part, La Toya is thankful that the military exposes her and her family to diversity, “getting to meet people from different nationalities and cultures … I love that.”

m2h operation homefront military mom WallJacobFam2La Toya wouldn’t have known about the Home Depot workshops, where she made friends with other families who introduced her to a hiking group, if she hadn’t attended an Operation Homefront Back-to-School Brigade event in 2015. Home Depot, an OH donor, and other organizations that serve military families often provide information at OH events. At BTSB, her children and many others received backpacks filled with money-saving school supplies. “I’m always helping other people, so it was nice to be on the receiving side,” La Toya said. OH has distributed more than 250,000 backpacks to military children since the program began in 2008.

In 2016, La Toya and Blake participated again in BTSB, and also in Holiday Meals for Military at Thanksgiving and the Holiday Toy Drive at Christmas. La Toya particularly enjoyed the social atmosphere, like a church potluck, at the Holiday Toy Drive event, which included a cookie exchange. Each child receives a gift, and Santa is there to take pictures with families, something La Toya had been having trouble finding time to do, especially since Blake had been working nights.

When La Toya first heard about Operation Homefront from a friend, she wondered if it was only for needy families. “I’m pretty sure there’s someone that needs it more than I do,” she said, adding she didn’t want to take away from another family. But after learning more about who can qualify for some Operation Homefront programs, she realized, “This is for everybody.”

The families at the toy drive also received children’s passes to the local indoor waterpark, which La Toya has been putting off visiting because of the expense.

Under the Holiday Meals program, military families receive groceries or gift cards to buy food. The defrayed grocery costs allowed La Toya to buy ingredients to bake extra treats for her daughter’s birthday, which is on Christmas Day. “The day she came, I just couldn’t imagine not having her or any of them. I like the crazy smiles that I get sometimes.”

La Toya comes from a large family, the oldest with 15 siblings, at least seven of whom lived together in Texas. “My [step] mom would have a full household of all of us kids at any given time,” she said. Stressful babysitting and elder care responsibilities for her siblings and grandparents often fell to La Toya before she was 18. Even after she married the first time, she would sometimes travel home to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

“Cooking is the only way I can get everyone together. Food is like my family’s binder.” Over the last several years, La Toya has come to better understand her family’s dynamics, but has also welcomed the opportunity to shift from caring for her extended family to herself and her nuclear family.

“My kids have never really had traditional grandparents, and I have never had traditional parents,” said La Toya, who has not had a relationship with her biological mother since she was 5. “I don’t ever want to miss a moment with my kids,” she said, adding that she volunteers to chaperone almost every field trip.

Her stepmother, as a Jehovah’s Witness, does not celebrate holidays, so La Toya typically would simply call to tell her “I really appreciate that you stepped up when you didn’t have to.”

La Toya has been further shaped by miscarrying a baby at two months, and twins at 6 months, her three “angel babies.”

La Toya and Blake will move their family soon to Colorado, where Blake, a staff sergeant in logistics, will support the Air Force band. La Toya is considering starting a baking business or some other creative line of work, but is concerned making it a profession might take the fun out of hobbies she enjoys. “It’s very therapeutic,” she said of baking.

Their journey will be another adventure, traveling by ferry for four days to Washington and then driving through Idaho and Wyoming. Blake wanted to surprise La Toya because she loves lighthouses and he knew they would see several at ferry stops. But she’s not a fan of surprises, and was resisting taking the ferry, so he told her.

Remembering the two-week drive to Anchorage from Texas, passing through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Canada including the Yukon Territory with three kids and pregnant, and a couple flat tires along the way, La Toya and Blake happily “found out we like being married to each other,” she joked.

It’s Military Appreciation Month! Consider joining us on our Mission2Honor military and veteran families throughout the month of May. No matter how you choose to honor service members and their families, don’t let this month pass by without doing something to show your appreciation.

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Kenzie Hall, Operation Homefront’s 2014 Army Military Child of the Year and founder of Brat Pack 11 for military kids, joins us to celebrate military kids with a special blog in April, Month of the Military Child and offers words to inspire all members of the military family.

 

Being a military kid is an experience truly like no other. You get to travel all over the world, experience opportunities that most civilian kids never will, and make a bunch friends from all the schools you attend.

However, being a military kid isn’t always easy. There’s the lengthy deployments, and not knowing if your parent, who is deployed, will be coming home. There’s saying goodbye to your new best friends and your home every couple of years. And military kids are more aware of what’s going on in the world, the good and the bad, at a very young age.

On top of having to deal with the military lifestyle and all of the struggles that come with it, you also have to handle the normal day-to-day struggles that come with just being a kid or a teenager. I didn’t live on many military installations so I attended public schools most often. Most public school kids don’t have parents in the military and they can’t grasp the struggles you’re faced with, sometimes on a daily basis. You feel like you don’t really have anyone to relate to and you can feel quite lonely during these times. I moved 14 times and attended 12 different schools. At one point, I attended three schools in one year.

Personally, I had trouble making new friends when switching schools because everyone else had known each other most of their lives. There was an abundance of cliques who simply just didn’t want you to break into their tight-knit group. I won’t sugarcoat it, school was sometimes rough and some people were flat out mean. The bullies are real and plentiful, and some will even disguise themselves as your friend. Being a kid or a teenager is hard enough, but sprinkling the military lifestyle on top of that can make life seem like a constant uphill battle.

Being born into this lifestyle wasn’t a choice that I consciously made, but it is one I wouldn’t change. If being a military kid taught me anything, it was how to deal with adversity. It showed me that I could handle anything. And believe it or not, so can you! This lifestyle showed me over and over again that every situation was temporary, and I had the ability to affect my circumstances.

As I said before, I didn’t get the chance to bond with many other military kids. However, when I was awarded the Army Military Child of The Year by Operation Homefront in 2014, I met four other teens who had lived the same way I did and who had experienced some of the same struggles. I no longer felt alone. Operation Homefront created a support group for 5 kids without even realizing it. Ryan, Gage, Michael-Logan, Juanita, and I still talk from time to time, and we even catch up through Skype.

Even though I was running a 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Brat Pack 11 that granted wishes to military kids of wounded and fallen Soldiers, I left the MCOY Gala feeling as though I wasn’t doing enough. That is how inspired I was by these other outstanding military teens.

I had a hard time convincing some adults that I could make a difference at age 11, but winning Operation Homefront’s award motivated my vision for Brat Pack 11. Their recognition of my efforts was a huge affirmation that I was doing something right. Three years later, Operation Homefront continues to support my mission to help my fellow military brats. I’m forever grateful for Operation Homefront’s support of myself and Brat Pack 11. Their guidance and mentorship is something I will always treasure.

If there was one piece of advice I would offer, it would be to always listen to your positive inner voice; the one that tells you, “you can do it!”; even when others don’t see it in you. Your success is dependent on a high level of motivation mixed with an unshakeable belief in yourself. Age means nothing! You are never too young to chase your dreams or to make your ideas come to life. You have a voice, so let it be heard! Don’t fall for the lie that you are too young or that you are not enough. Because on the other side of that fear is your dream. Operation Homefront’s, MCOY Award is a terrific program that amplifies the voice of our military youth and supports their efforts to have a positive impact in our World, regardless of age. If you have a passion for what you are doing, and back it with tenacity and drive, you can accomplish almost anything. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote,

“If you think you’re too small to make an impact, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.” ~Anonymous

Learn more about Brat Pack 11 here.

Learn more about Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year® Award here.

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For Jamal Braxton, 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award recipient for the U.S. Air Force, and future U. S. Air Force Academy Class of 2021 cadet, is always ready for a challenge . It begins with an unshakeable belief that there is always something that can be done, whether through service to others or endless compassion.

This empathy for others, to be fully engaged, also drives Jamal to serve others. Both at home and abroad, Jamal has been active in and outside of the base gates. In the U.S. and overseas, he has championed the nonprofit New Eyes for the Needy, which purchases new eyeglasses for U.S. residents and distributes used eyeglasses to the disadvantaged in developing countries. In the current school year alone, Jamal has obtained 160 eyeglasses and 70 lenses for the nonprofit.

In addition to enduring the relocations and deployments of his father, Jamal has also known loss. Two of his school-age friends have passed too young, one to an auto accident and the other to a seizure. These experiences have driven him to embrace all that life has to offer while compelling him to give back and encouraging and supporting others to do the same.

While he acknowledges the obstacles inherent to military life, Jamal is poetic in describing the positive experiences he has had, particularly when describing the family’s time in Japan. “I personally loved living in Japan, because although they’re modern they appreciate nature to its fullest,” said Jamal. “Japan has shown me how to truly appreciate nature from their breath-taking scenery and by holding festivals like the Cherry Blossoms Festival and Hanami both appreciating the beauty of flowers.”

He has also been extremely active with the Red Cross at home and during his time in Germany. In these capacities, Jamal oversees monthly veteran house visits, youth group and leadership group meetings, numerous activities related to the armed forces, the recruitment of future Red Cross Youth Services leaders, and numerous fundraisers, including the International Measles & Rubella Initiative fundraiser.

He said his time with the Red Cross has fueled his aspiration to be a neurosurgeon one day. “I have always had an interest in the function of the brain and its amazing abilities from simple tasks like our five senses to language comprehension,” said Jamal. “So, my passion for the brain and the wanting to help others has steered me to the field of Neurology.” He also educates youth on International Humanitarian Law.

Jamal doesn’t stop there. He is a varsity athlete in swimming, track and field and cross country, active in Scouting, and has a job as a lifeguard.

Jamal is the son of Master Sgt. Lawrence Braxton and Ahllam Braxton of Hill AFB, UT. With all he has accomplished to date, the sky is the limit for this young man.

Operation Homefront would like to thank presenting sponsor, United Technologies, for their support of Military Child of the Year®.  Support from companies like United Technologies and all of our MCOY sponsors is invaluable in helping us showing appreciation for the contributions our military families make to our communities.

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Molly Frey faces her fears with fervor. Our 2017 National Guard Military Child of the Year said she first felt the impact of being a military kid when her dad, Senior Master Sergeant Kim Frey (ret), deployed to Iraq for the first time.

“This growing sadness and worry I developed was very difficult to explain to my school friends.Most children without a military background don’t understand deployment, and how it affects a family. He was a half a world away, and there was nothing we could do about it,” reflected Molly.

But that wasn’t all. Through her father’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Molly also faced the military demands facing her mother, Senior Master Sergeant Renee Frey, who serves in the Air National Guard. At times, she was without both parents

But Molly didn’t shrink back in fear…she let it serve as her motivation to excel in life. “I never let my grades slip, nor did I ever let his deployments stop me from accomplishing many things. I started Tribute to the Troops (an ice skating event in her area of Ohio) in honor of my father and to all the military. I took what is difficult for children to handle and used it to bounce back and give back to the military community,” said Molly.

On top of all of this, Molly was still able to maintain academic excellence, keep a 4.0 or higher..

“I have NEVER seen anyone her age exhibit the dedication she does to everything,” said Molly’s supervisor when she was an assistant sailing instructor at Leatherlips Yacht Club’s children’s camp. “On windy days, I have seen her rescue 20 capsized boats and be so tired that I had to lift her into the pontoon boat, just to watch her dive off again to rescue another. She would take charge of the students during boat rigging time to ensure that everything was done correctly.  Molly is a remarkable young lady.”

Molly’s favorite saying is by author Suzy Kassem,   “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”  She says it reminds her when she wants to try something new or if something scares her, to push herself to do it.

She’s received the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence twice. In a letter to Molly, ,   President Barack Obama wrote, “Students like you will chart the course of our country’s unwritten history, and I commend you for setting a powerful example for all young Americans.”

Molly also raised funds and participated for five years in Skate for Hope accumulating over $6,000 for Breast Cancer Research. Molly served in the leadership group “Students Serving Students (S3)” designed to improve character, school climate, organize events and an anti-bullying group to formulate ideas to prevent bullying in school. Molly has also performed in the professional Columbus Ohio BalletMet Nutcracker three years. She was selected as 2012 Miss Greene Countrie Towne Junior Miss to be involved in community events.

She also plays the piano, golfs, and figure skates.  She also finds time to volunteer at her local hospital allowing her to shadow medical personnel, because she is determined to be a cardio thoracic heart surgeon.

No doubt, Molly will make a way!

 

Operation Homefront would like to thank presenting sponsor, United Technologies, for their support of Military Child of the Year®.  Support from companies like United Technologies and all of our MCOY sponsors is invaluable in helping us showing appreciation for the contributions our military families make to our communities.

 

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April is the Month of the Military Child.

There are very real challenges for children of our military families. Frequent moves uproot them and more changes than just the house they live in. New friends, new teachers, new requirements, sometimes new language. A deployment can bring stress and worry over the safety of those they love. Moments and milestones will occur without Mom or Dad there.

But you know what? Military children are a tough and resilient group. No question about it.

That’s not to say that it is all flowers and sunshine all the time. But it can be a rewarding and growth experience that leads to experiences and opportunities that one wouldn’t trade for the world.

We asked this year’s Military Child of the Year ® Award recipients to pass on one piece of advice on how to make the most of military life. These are definitely great tips that are sure to inspire:

• Be as kind and outgoing as possible. A smile can go a long way, and can be especially helpful in making new friends. –Mary Kate Cooper, Military Child of the Year ®, U.S. Coast Guard.

• Try to hit the ground running. It is very easy to get overwhelmed in a new place, but if you take a deep breath and be sure to smile, things will turn out well.-Alexander McGrath, Military Child of the Year ®, U.S. Navy, who has moved 7 times.

• No matter what challenges you face never take your eyes off your goals and strive to achieve them. There will always be a road block to overcome in your life but how you choose to overcome those hurdles will define who you are.-Jamal Braxton, Military Child of the Year ®, U.S. Air Force.

• (Don’t) see disadvantages as innately bad, but see them as opportunities to create growth in yourself and the community.-Henderson Heussner, Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Army.

• Be proud of your parents and your entire family’s commitment to serving our country.-Sophie Bernstein, Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation recipient and daughter of U.S. Navy reservist.

• Enjoy the ride. It will be over sooner than later and you are going to miss this life. Do not let opportunities pass you by.-Jackson Beatty, Military Child of the Year ®, U.S. Marine Corps.

• Always venture out and try new activities. Know that you are supported and you have a foundation with every military kid. If you are struggling, or going through a hard time, know you can always turn to another military child!-Molly Frey, Military Child of the Year ®, National Guard.

Throughout the next week, we will be sharing with you the stories of these seven accomplished young men and women that excel in scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life. Be sure to check back with us, and tune in on our Facebook page as we broadcast LIVE from the Military Child of the Year ® awards gala in Alexandria, VA on April 6.

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By Ashley Sistrunk, Guest Blogger.

The viral military Christmas card. Did you happen to see it floating around internet land the past couple of months? Totally cliché, right?

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sistrunkblog2Let me back up and introduce myself. Hey, I’m Ashley! I’m an almost 30 year old (how did THAT happen) wife and mother to four perfectly imperfect children….oh and I’m a military spouse whose husband is only halfway through the journey to retirement.

We’ve had quite an interesting military experience that I’m sure MANY of you can relate to.

When we were 18 & 19, we had this crazy idea to get married and start a family together…but didn’t factor in the expenses. My husband, Brandon, worked at a BBQ restaurant and I worked as a hairstylist in a salon. Not too bad, right? WRONG!

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We were married 4 beautiful weeks before we discovered we were expecting our first child! How did we find out? The fumes from the hair salon started to make me sick, so I did what any logical 19 year old would do….I bought 10 pregnancy tests and sure enough, they all read POSITIVE.

We told our families and within that process, realized we wouldn’t be able to afford a child with a BBQ income alone, since I could no longer tolerate the smell from the salon.

So, this started our military journey.

If you’re lucky enough to know my husband, you know he is one of the most giving, kind-hearted people on the planet. He will do anything for anyone, which can be taken advantage of at times. He knew that joining the military would cover the medical expenses of having a child, even if it meant sacrificing his own life at some point. Who does that?! Only 1% of America, apparently.

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Off to boot camp he went, while I was left behind, 6 1/2 months pregnant. I would write him letters every single day and would pray to receive one from him. Not a single letter came. When I finally saw him at his graduation, he explained that his unit kept getting in trouble, so their punishment was not being able to write letters. I think in a way, that helped prepare me for the rest of our military journey.

My husband missed the births of 3 out of 4 children. One due to tech school and the others due to deployments. The recruiter must have forgotten to mention the chances of that happening. Either that, or we were just young and naïve and assumed we would have a fairytale life.

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When he left for this past deployment, my children were 9, 7, 5 (she turned 6 while he was gone), and 2 months. “They” say deployments get easier each time. I say “they” must not have children or “they” somehow speed up time during deployments. No one prepared us for the emotional strain that this deployment would bring. The kids were now old enough to be downright MAD for him being gone. Not just mad, but incredibly sad too.

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I had to get creative when it came to keeping the kids and myself connected to the person we absolutely ADORE while he was thousands of miles (7,038 miles, to be exact) away, BUT… I’ve never had a creative bone in my 5’1 body.

That’s where Pinterest stepped in. Pinterest SAVED this deployment!

*All the mommas say AMEN*

Here are some things my family and I did to stay connected through this deployment:

1) Deployment wall: We had a family night a week or so before my husband deployed and we decided to spend that time putting our deployment wall together! *See picture*

We showed them on the map where we were and where daddy would be. We had two different clocks, one that showed our time and one that showed his. We had a picture of him in uniform and a picture of him with the kids (added later). We had a space where they could roll out a sheet of paper and draw him pictures or write him letters, or even just write down how they’re feeling that day. We had little baskets for mail received and mail to send out. I would catch them going to the wall and just staring at his picture. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

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2) Pictures on pillow cases, recording his voice in a stuffed animal, and video recording bedtime stories. If you haven’t visited your Airman & Family Readiness Center, I suggest you do! They have so many different things that can help a deployment along! My husband was able to go and have pictures of him and the kids printed onto pillow cases, have his voice recorded in stuffed animals, AND video record himself reading them each a bedtime story! So they got to see him every night before bed!

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3) Care packages: Pinterest has SO many awesome ideas for care packages! The kids loved putting things in the box and decorating it! They would say “Oh! Daddy will LOVE this!” And their little faces would light up! If you’re OCD, this will really test your patience, but it’s so worth it to see them wanting to get involved!

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4) Technology: This is huge for military families! We didn’t have Skype or video messenger until my husband’s 2nd or 3rd deployment. Before that, you heard from your spouse whenever they could find an open phone, which was never guaranteed. For this deployment, we were so blessed with technology! The kids were able to talk to their daddy *almost* every morning before school! Of course the connection was sketchy or would fail, but most of the time they could at least say hello!

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5) Holidays: Holidays are tough with your loved one halfway across the world. As the parent, you have to put your feelings on the back burner and focus on the physical/emotional needs of your children, ESPECIALLY around the holidays! For holidays, we would remove his picture from the deployment wall and tape it on a chair at the head of the table. This way, the kids could see he’s not been forgotten and that he is still a part of our special day, even though he’s not actually home.

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For Christmas, we made our first ever Christmas card! Yes, the viral military Christmas card! Honestly, the card ALMOST didn’t happen. I had my husband take his pictures from his deployment location, but the timing never seemed right for us to take ours.

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As each day got closer and closer to Christmas, I would see more and more pictures of all the happy families together on their beautifully crafted cards. At first I was sad. So terribly sad. I wanted nothing more than for my husband to be home for Christmas, but I knew that wasn’t an option. So, I decided TODAY IS THE DAY! We went out and got each shot on the first try, thanks momma!

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I pieced them together that night and decided to post them on FaceBook. The response was unbelievable! Within a few days, it was EVERYWHERE! So many spouses reached out saying “We’re apart for the holidays too! Thank you for showing us your togetherness through it all!”.

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Deployments are hard, especially if you actually love spending time with your spouse and consider him/her your best friend. The days can be so long and it can be so tempting to let that cause division in your marriage or family, but if you can focus on the good, you WILL get through it! Give yourself some grace. You will have days where you just want to bury yourself under the covers and cry and that’s ok! Try not to take that frustration out on the deployed member, but at the same time, be honest with them if they ask what’s troubling you. They will feel helpless at times, but that’s where you have to rise up and show them that you are strong TOGETHER, even if you’re not physically together. Your hearts are bonded, for better and for worse.

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mcoy17-web_fbpost_640x640-semi-finalistsHere at Operation Homefront, the New Year doesn’t just bring with it the anticipation of all the ways we will serve our military families but also the excitement of Military Child of the Year award season! And it begins in earnest today with the announcing of our semifinalists for the 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award and the semifinalists for the second annual Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

This year’s semifinalists range in age from 8-18 and represent 37 states and Puerto Rico, with one nominee from overseas.

Without further ado, here are our semifinalists by branch of service (You can find a list by state here)

AIR FORCE

Anthony Beasley, 18, Hurlburt Field, FL.

Jamal Braxton, 18, Hill AFB, UT.

Katherine Dever, 17, Kathleen, GA.

Marianna Galvin, 17, Henderson, NV.

Linda Goodson, 17, Triangle, VA.

Gavin Hetzler, 17, Edmond, OK.

Sharlee Krkosa, 17, Schertz, TX.

Trevette Kuester, 17, Huntington, MD.

Kylee McClure, 18, Monroe, UT.

Erin McLeod, 17,  Anchorage, AK.

Jordyn McNeal, 10, Birmingham, AL.

Benjamin Rawald, 14, Del Rio, TX.

Edward Salvador, 16, Niceville, FL.

Caroline Stanton, 11, Las Vegas, NV.

Erica Thompson, 18, Colorado Springs, CO.

ARMY

Darrius Anderson, 17, Mansfield, TX.

Alec Argueta, 17, El Paso, TX.

Andrea Gamble, 17, Kaiserlauten, GER

Hayley Hamblin, 18, Florissant, CO.

Henderson Heussner, 18, Fort Myers, FL.

Hunter Hotaling, 15, Lansing, KS.

Timothy Hunt, 17,  Burke, VA.

Mackenzie Miller, 17, Peachtree City, GA.

Elissa Nott, 17, Onalaska, WI.

Jediah Persaud, 16, Appling, GA.

Grace Pleinis, 9, Tampa, FL.

Thomas Rizza, 11, Bradenton, FL.

Cohen Russell, 10, Fort Meade, MD.

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL.

Madeline Turpin, 17, Wahiawa, HI.

COAST GUARD

Mary Kate Cooper, 17, Fairfax, VA.

Kaili Cutler, 8, Daphne, AL.

Tyler Evans, 14, Maple Valley, WA.

Janelle Gehrke, 15, Saint Joseph, MI.

William Kuebler, 12, League City, TX.

Charlie McGuire, 12, Trenton, NJ.

Kylie McGuire, 15, Trenton, NJ.

Gabriel Niles, 14, Bennington, VT.

Jessie Porter, 17, Bayamon, PR.

Ashlynn Ruleman, 16, Waterford, CT

Alyssa Santos, 17, Tarpon Springs, FL.

Joseph Schmid, 8, Marshfield, MA.

Kira Walters, 14, Yorktown, VA.

Cody Watson, 16, Tuttle, OK.

Rachel Winburn, 17, Ketchikan, AK.

MARINE CORPS

Viktoria Alston, 17, Havelock, NC.

Jackson Beatty, 17, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Carson Butler, 18, Virginia Beach, VA.

Kindrah Carney, 16, Pearl City, HI.

Alejandro Cook-Hernandez, 17, Havelock, NC.

Da’Rod Crutchfield, 18, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Jocelyn Figueora-Urquidi, 13, Beaufort, SC.

Joshua Frawley, 13, Jacksonville, NC.

McKenzie Galloway, 17, Stafford, VA.

Brooke Gruber, 17, Jacksonville, NC.

Sierra LeFlore, 17, San Marcos, CA.

Jennifer Narvaez, 16, Hubert, NC.

Cody Phillips, 17, Quantico, VA.

Thomas Russ, 17, Stafford, VA.

Neorah Wells, 9, Charlotte, NC.

NAVY

Alexis Bryant, 17, Virginia Beach, VA.

Olivia Burch, 18, Grand Forks, ND.

Chace Cleckley, 17, Fallon, NV.

Caleb Harding, 16, Camp Lejeune, NC.

Sierra K., 17, Middletown, RI.

Britton Laing, 18, Silverdale, WA.

Akaiah Lovell, 15, Port Orchard, WA.

Alexander McGrath, 17, Severna Park, MD.

Aiden OLeary, 17, Fredricksburg, VA.

Evan Pittman, 18, Phoenix, AZ.

Isabelle Richards, 12, Jamul, CA.

Kathryn Schorr, 17, Darien, CT.

Alexander Sucato, 16, Belle Chasse, LA.

Ethan Vicario, 17, Virginia Beach, VA.

Reagan Warrick, 12, El Cajon, CA.

NATIONAL GUARD 

Connor Ascherl, 18, Granville, IA.

Amelia Bailey, 16, Saint Augustine, FL.

Trevor Bartunek, 17, Rapid City, SD.

Sheryl Evans, 17, Callahan, FL.

Molly Frey, 16, Pickerington, OH.

John Kargel, 15, Isle, MN.

Zaniya Lewis, 18, Edgewater Park, NJ.

Sydney Long, 17, Lincoln, NE.

Isabelle Miller, 16, Spokane, WA.

Lily Moser, 15, Portland, OR.

Eleanor Rager, 17, Douglasville, GA.

Kara Smith, 17, Munford, TN.

Alexander Steinmetz, 16, Cottage Grove, MN.

Joshua Traxel, 16, Rolla, MO.

Alysha Worden, 17, Martinez, GA.

Semifinalists for 2017 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation Presented by Booz Allen Hamilton

BreAsia Austin, 17, Dallas, TX, National Guard

Kamille Banks, 17, Lodi, NJ, Coast Guard

Sophie Bernstein, 16, St. Louis, MO, Navy

Elizabeth Brouse, 17, Merchantville, NJ, Army

Marianne Dunaway, 17, Madison, AL, Army

Gabriel Feinn, 16, Louisville, KY, Navy

Kianna Flowers, 17, Gambrills, MD, Air Force

Noah Freye, 17, Chesapeake, VA, Navy

Kennedy Knight, 17, Charlotte, NC, National Guard

Maura Knutsen, 17, Centerville, UT, Army

Jason Lee, 17, Pacheco, CA, Army

Jennifer Molton, 16, Lucas, OH, National Guard

Lily Moser, 15, Portland, OR, Army

Krystalin Neary, 17, St. Peter, MN, National Guard

Caitlyn Schoon, 17, Belle Plaine, MN, Army

Samantha Shaffer, 18, Greenwood, IN, Army

Madison Shick, 15, Tampa, FL, Army

Mikaela Smith, 17, Las Vegas, NV, Air Force

Trinity Torgerson, 17, Colorado Springs, CO, National Guard

Cierra Williams-Carter, 17, Virginia Beach, VA, Navy

So now that we have our semifinalists, what’s next?

Each semifinalist for the military branch awards will be interviewed by a team selected by Operation Homefront staff. Award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges, to include senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s board of directors, and other leaders in the military support community.  Booz Allen Hamilton will judge competitors for the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation.

The top 5 finalists from each branch will be announced in February.  Winners will be announced in March and then on to the big gala in Washington, D.C. on April 06, 2017.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Military Child of the Year Award and read about our past recipients at www.militarychildoftheyear.org and get inspired by pictures from last year’s festivities here.

Congratulations to all of our Military Child of the Year semi-finalists! Great job!

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