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Operation Homefront is accepting 2017 Military Child of the Year nominations through Dec. 5, 2016. There will be a seventh award for a young person age 13-18. This award is the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation® presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. With a new invention, improvement to existing technology, creation of a new nonprofit or community service group, or expansion of an existing membership organization, the winner of this award shows the power of innovative thinking. A child can be nominated and apply for both awards. We encourage it! Nominate here

mcoy2017rerunGoogle “military kids”, and you’ll find there’s no shortage of research and statistics available about the impact of the military life on the children who live it. How many times the average military child can expect to move. How many schools the average military child can expect to attend. How many deployments the average military child can expect to face.

But those statistics don’t tell us who they really are. YOU DO. And they aren’t average. They are extraordinary.

Every year, when we open nominations for our Military Child of the Year Award, we get forms filled with the pride and love of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, teachers, coaches and community members. Yes, they talk of accomplishments; GPAs, leadership positions, obstacles overcome. But they also talk about the little things that matter the most. The smile that lifts up those around them. The jokester that keeps the family on their toes. The one who knows just when a hug is needed. The artist. The musician. The ever energetic powerhouse and the budding philosophers.

Quiet courage and strength that speaks volumes. They aren’t just making the best of what military life handed them….they’re owning it. With zest and joy and determination.

Which is why we always look forward to the opening of the annual nomination period for the Military Child of the Year Award. As part of our mission to raise awareness for the challenges faced by the children of our military families, we are always looking for the right words and message that captures just how terrific these kids are, and why it is so important to recognize them as a force behind the forces. For the past 8 years, we have truly had to look no further than you, our community, for the pride, love, and awe in your words as you share the stories of the youngest heroes in your lives.

mcoyblog2015familyHelp us tell the stories of who our military children really are. Anyone can nominate a military child in their life, so share with your friends, neighbors, schools, and community groups. One child from each branch will be honored in April at a special gala in our nation’s capitol. Recipients will also receive a laptop and a $10000 award.  The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation recipient will receive a $5,000 cash award, will benefit from mentorship by Booz Allen Hamilton employees to scale or to advance the winner’s project, and will be flown to Washington along with a parent or guardian to be recognized at the gala. So, fire up those keyboards!

To learn more about the Military Child of the Year and Innovation Awards, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. You can also find the nomination form here and FAQ here.

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As we entered the eighth year of our Military Child of the Year award, we were reminded that greatness comes in all shapes and sizes. Last week, we welcomed seven amazing military kids, our 2016 Military Child of the Year recipients and our Innovation Award winner, to Washington D.C. They ranged in age from 9 to 17 years old, and as they toured DC, they impressed us with their achievements (and polite manners), wowed their representatives on Capitol Hill, and celebrated with us at our annual Military Child of the Year gala.

If these kids are any indication, the future of our nation is in good hands.

Here is a snapshot of things seen and heard, some highly unexpected and delightful, while these extraordinary young patriots took our nation’s capital by storm.

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Playful at heart, but when the need arises, this group is serious about giving back to their communities and the country they love (from left to right, Our 2016 award recipients: Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer (Army MCOY), Christian Fagala (Marine Corps MCOY), Maddy Morlino (Air Force MCOY), Trip Landon (National Guard MCOY), Elizabeth O’Brien (Innovation Award winner), Jeffrey Burds (Navy MCOY) and Keegan Fike (Coast Guard MCOY).

 

MCOYGenDunfordCJOS“The resilience of our families … and our children … is absolutely what has allowed us to do the things that we’ve asked our force to do. The strength of our U.S. Armed Forces, the strength of our nation is in … our military families.”

General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose presence continued a tradition of support for our military kids’ ability to prevail in spite of the challenges of military life (shown here at the pre-gala reception with 2016 Navy Military Child of the Year recipient Jeffrey Burds).

 

 

MCOY2016ChristianGoodDayDC“When I see someone in pain or that’s sad, I have this feeling that I have to help them.”

Christian Fagala, age 9, 2016 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year, appearing on the morning show, Great Day Washington, who won his own battle with cancer by age 4 and tirelessly raises money to help kids who are fighting their own battles with the disease.

 

 

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“Each one represents the spirit of selfless service that defines our great nation. They perform at a very high level, while simultaneously dealing with their own particular turbulence — parental deployments, relocations, and the variety of uncertainties that generally characterize military life.”

Brig. Gen. John I. Pray, Jr. (Ret), President and CEO of Operation Homefront (shown here with our award recipients), who greeted each family at a special welcome dinner at Champps in Pentagon City.

 

MCOYCEOawesomeness“You’re the CEO of awesome!”

Ten-year-old Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer’s response to Senator Bob Casey when he looked at her business card for the nonprofit she started (called Heart Hugs) and said, “Wow you’re the CEO? I haven’t been the CEO of anything!” She immediately responds “That’s not true! You’re the CEO of awesome!” (Shown here, left to right, Pete Stinson, Operation Homefront regional director of our northeastern field offices, Sen. Casey, Lorelei and her mother, Chelle.)

 

 

MCOYJohnHeald“What a thrill to be part of such an extraordinary evening. The children … all amazing and a bright and shining hope for the next generation.”

John Heald, Senior Cruise Director and Brand Ambassador for Carnival Cruise Line and our emcee for the evening (shown here with Trip Landon, 2016 National Guard Military Child of the Year), who joked that he thought his title was impressive until he came to our gala event which hosted the highest ranking military officials in the United States.

 

 

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These past few days have been out of this world. I never imagined that I would have had such a wonderful opportunity to meet people who love volunteering as much as I do. I am forever grateful to Operation Homefront and the Booz Allen Hamilton group for the outpouring of support they have given to me. I look forward to being a future supporter of both organizations.”

Elizabeth O’Brien, recipient of our first ever 2016 Operation Homefront Innovation Award, sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton (shown here with Laurie Gallo, Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and Operation Homefront board member, and her parents Shelbi and Army Commander Sgt. Maj. Matthew O’Brien).

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Our event would not be possible without the support of many organizations that sponsored our awards program, including our presenting sponsor United Technologies. We are grateful for your investment in recognizing our military kids and their families.

 

 

Learn more about each of our award recipients.

View more photos from the event here.

Visit our #MCOY2016 tag board to see the flurry of attention given to the kids on social media.

 

 

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Guest blog, Nate Richards, 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year, age 12

This military kid is not crazy about dealing with the holidays. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and New Year’s! Lots of nice people and “Good Cheer.”

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According to Nate (far right, front), military kids can’t always have the traditional Christmas but with a little ingenuity their families can still be together and celebrate.

But when you’re a military kid it can be tough. Your parent can be deployed or one or more of your brothers won’t be home because of leave or deployment. It can be really challenging to get in the spirit.

So, my family has come up with some “awesometacullar” ways of still having traditions, not your normal ones but they are Richards’ military family ones. FYI, these are traditions that can usually change from year to year (Haha).

My favorite part about Christmas when I was little, was having everyone home to decorate the tree and have hot chocolate while listening to really old Christmas music. My older brothers are a bunch of comedians. So, it was always loud and lots of laughter. I think being a military kid taught me that you can still celebrate and be jolly even if things aren’t the way you remember or want them to be.

Our family has many new traditions when it comes to Christmas. We get our iPads and phones into the living room and then FaceTime whichever brothers can’t be home. We turn on the Christmas music LOUD so they can hear it.

We still make hot chocolate and then Isabelle and I become the ornament runners. Bubbu says put that one on the top left, Max will say put mine by John’s. Charlie is usually cracking jokes about something and the fact that he is on Santa’s naughty list.

Last year, My Dada got to watch us open our present from Santa via Skype. We made an awesome care package for My Dada. It had a small tree and Isabelle made Christmas ornaments. She also made some cookies for him.

That was how the traditions started for 2013 and 2014. This year, we will figure out how it will roll in the Richards’ house for 2015. We know already one brother is on deployment standby and another is in Navy A school too far away to come home. So it looks like the elf ornament runners will get another shot at decorating the tree via iPad (Hahaha).  Who knows what other new traditions will be started. I am pretty sure some of you have pretty unique ways of celebrating too. I hope you post them and maybe for all the kids that will not be together with their families, they can learn a new idea and start a new holiday tradition in their house.

I am really lucky to be a military kid that has so many brothers that serve as well as my Dada. We can’t always have the traditional Christmas but with a little ingenuity we can still be together and celebrate. No Black Friday shopping for us, or being sad. Just a day to figure out new ways to celebrate together.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Nate the Great

 

Nominations are being accepted for the 2016 Military Child of the Year award through December 11, 2015, 11:45pm CST. Nominations may be made by parents, other family members, teachers, counselors, coaches, community officials, church leaders, neighbors and others. For more information, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

 

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Taylor Bass took her love for goats and found a way to support military families and thank Operation Homefront for helping her family through a tough time.

Taylor Bass took her love for goats and found a way to support military families and thank Operation Homefront for helping her family through a tough time.

You could hear the bubbling enthusiasm as she spoke. “Mom! Cookie had babies!” That excited report came from Taylor Bass, the 9-year-old daughter of Army veteran and wounded warrior Benjamin Bass.

“Cookie” is a goat. And Taylor loves goats … and pretty much all animals. But what sets Taylor apart is that she is using her love for the farm and talent for raising animals to give back to people in need.

At Operation Homefront, we are continually touched by the generous nature of those who raise money for us with different kinds of fundraisers, but we have a special place for the kids who give back. And they find unique ways to be generous. Like the young girl who took donations on a back country road during the popular RAGBRAI bike ride across Iowa and raised $1000 for military families.

When we learned of Taylor’s unique story, word spread quickly among our staff.

 

 

Like most military kids, Taylor has experienced the pain of separation from a parent who serves.

Like most military kids, Taylor has experienced the pain of separation from a parent who serves.

Taylor’s dad, who served one tour in Iraq, was hit by a car while on active duty. As a result of complications from combat PTSD and those injuries, he was medically retired. In the midst of transitioning from military service to civilian life in Texas, the family struggled as they waited for their benefits to be sorted out. As their options began to run out, Operation Homefront stepped in to help. “Operation Homefront saved us because we didn’t get paid for three months and I didn’t have the money to pay (the car payment) and utilities … and (you) gave us money for food to feed our kids and diapers for my baby boy. (You) also helped us find other assistance in our area to cover our phone and school supplies for Taylor,” said Taylor’s mom, Krista.

Taylor sums it up neatly. “You guys helped us,” she said. And so, when family life became more stable, she wanted to say thanks by giving back. And she found a unique way to do that.

Taylor joined 4-H and started raising two goats – Elsa and Olaf. She did so well taking care of them that when she went to show them at the local county fair, one of her goats was selected for the premium auction at the livestock sale that followed the event.

Erica Howe, Community Liaison for Operation Homefront, met Taylor at the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service Office to receive Taylor’s gift to Operation Homefront.

Erica Howe, Community Liaison for Operation Homefront, met Taylor at the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service Office to receive Taylor’s gift to Operation Homefront.

At the auction, the bidding reached $1700 for her goat. Then, the word got out that she was giving the proceeds of the sale to support military families. People began to contribute money to the auction and to Taylor, to help her continue in 4-H.

The next day, her second goat was to be sold at another nearby auction and the news of Taylor’s intentions followed her there. The goat was sold, returned to Taylor, and resold several times, raising $1800.

 

When it was all over, Taylor had raised more than $3000 for Operation Homefront and she also made a donation to Wounded Warrior Project. “I’m super proud of her,” said Taylor’s mom.

Not one to sit back and be idle, Taylor is raising goats for 4-H again. This year, she wants the proceeds to go to children who are battling cancer. In fact, her goat Elsa was sold to a local farmer and Taylor may end up getting one of Elsa’s babies to continue her ongoing tradition of “kids” giving back.

Thank you for your service! Army veteran and wounded warrior Benjamin Bass and his family, Jaiden, Taylor and Krista have weathered a difficult transition from military to civilian life and are enjoying life on their acreage in Texas.

Thank you for your service! Army veteran and wounded warrior Benjamin Bass and his family, Jaiden, Taylor and Krista have weathered a difficult transition from military to civilian life and are enjoying life on their acreage in Texas.

 

Taylor gives us the perfect example to follow. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re up to…you can make a difference. Thanks Taylor!

 

 

 

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It’s not every day that a person gets to tag along with six kids like these four young men and two young ladies. They are not your ordinary kids. In fact, they are extraordinary. They are our 2015 Military Child of the Year® recipients. And it was my unique pleasure to join them and their families for two days as they enjoyed the nation’s capital before being recognized at a special gala in their honor.

I had been reading about these kids for several weeks and will admit to already being star struck by their awesomeness. And rightfully so. These young patriots proved to be just as impressive in person as they are on paper. And I was not the only one who was inspired. 

 

“I was invited here tonight to inspire these kids. After learning a little bit more about them, I’m the one who’s inspired.”

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Jason Brown, our keynote speaker for our gala, who is a former NFL player with the St. Louis Rams and owner of First Fruits Farms that gives all of its harvest to those in need. His brother was killed in action in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

“This nation asks a lot of each of you, and each of you continues to prove day in and day out that you are strong, that you are resilient and you are full of love of our country and for each other.”

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General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when speaking about our Military Child of the Year recipients at the gala.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“For the adults here tonight…you know all too well that life is about change. For many of us, that realization can take a lifetime. For many military kids, that realization occurs before the end of elementary school.”

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Mike Emanuel, Chief Congressional Correspondent, Fox News Channel and Emcee for our gala.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You kids have inspired me…to get back to (my) roots and do more volunteer work…it’s great for your soul, makes you feel rich.”

mcoygalablog_murphy-goode-dave-readyDave Ready, Jr. (center of photo), Winemaker, Murphy-Goode (whose great-grandfather is a WWI veteran) and his company was one of the sponsors of our Military Child of the Year gala and presented Dell laptops to all of our recipients.

 

 

“There are particular anxieties that military families face and …you are making the sacrifices just as your loved ones who serve do and I wanted to come by and … with a son in the military … say thanks and congratulate those of you who have been singled out for this honor.”

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Tim Kaine, Senator for Virginia, who was joined by Randy Forbes, Representative for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District. Both came to congratulate Caleb Parsons, 2015 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, who lives in Virginia, at a special reception at the U.S. Capitol. Kaine is shown here shaking the hand of Caleb’s brother, Nathan.

 

“It’s fair to say that there’s nothing we do…which is quite a lot…that’s more enjoyable than tonight. These young patriots assembled here tonight reflect the achievement, service, dedication and resiliency that truly defines military kids.”

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Tim Farrell, Interim CEO and Chief Operating Officer for Operation Homefront, with 2015 Marine Corps Child of the Year Christopher-Raul Rodriquez, his brother Kilyn-Miguel and Major General James Lukeman, Commanding General of the Training and Education Command for the U.S. Marine Corps.

 

 

 

 “None of us thinks we’ve done anything that amazing…but when we read about the other kids here, wow, we’re impressed.”

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Overheard from Sarah Hesterman, 2015 Air Force Military Child of the Year (second from the right), pictured with (left to right) Caleb Parsons, 2015 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 2015 Army Military Child of the Year, Christopher-Raul Rodriguez, 2015 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year, Zachary Parsons, 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year, Sarah, and Emily Kliewer, 2015 Navy Military Child of the Year.

 

For the very first time this year we were honored to recognize a National Guard recipient in addition to a child from each service branch. Yet even with the inclusion of the National Guard and increasing the number of our award recipients from five to six, we’re only scratching the surface in celebrating the nearly two million military kids of today. The goal of our award is that, by bringing recognition to a few, we will build support and encouragement for the many military kids who inspire us every day.

View more pictures from the event.

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Zachary Parsons, 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year.

Zachary Parsons, 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year.

We continue our series on our 2015 Military Child of the Year recipients with getting to know Zachary Parsons, Military Child of the Year, National Guard.

A common theme among the stories of the military child experience is one of children stepping up in ways big and small when mom or dad (or both) answer the call to service. Zachary Parsons can definitely relate.

The Parsons have strong military ties. Besides his father, Zachary’s sister and brother also serve. When it came time for his father to deploy to Afghanistan, Zachary knew that he would be needed to help run the family farm, alongside his mother. But what he couldn’t know was that his father would be injured during that deployment, prolonging the family reunion and meaning that he would assume even more responsibility while worrying about his father and what the future would hold.

It has been a tough two years for Zachary. He shares, “When the main figure leaves your household there is a spiral of things to deal with. My dad was head of household, so when he left there were so many things left to do on the farm, as well as keep our life together. Dealing with that empty space is tough.”

Those responsibilities alone would be enough for many, but they have not stopped Zachary. Imbued with a strong sense of the call to service, and the cost exacted, Zachary gives back to his community in so many astonishing ways. He uses his personal experiences with deployments and the impact they have on military children to advocate as a member of Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council. As a child of farmers, he is active in 4-H at the state and national level, serving as a delegate to Congress from Missouri. He wants other military children to know that there is someone who understands exactly what they are going through, and that they, too, can have a voice. It is no surprise that Zachary was named Whiteman Air Force Base Youth of the Year and Missouri Military Youth of the Year.

Zachary has felt the impact of his father's deployment and injuries, but knows one day soon they will be back together for good.

Zachary has felt the impact of his father’s deployment and injuries, but knows one day soon they will be back together for good.

An accomplished debater, Zachary has maintained a 3.85 GPA while also trying new things, such as joining his school’s tennis team. Though his dad is able to come home on weekends, the family, and Zachary in particular, look forward to the day when they can be reunited for good.

Zachary is the youngest son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason and Debbie Parsons. His father is currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood.

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.

 “Service changes lives” – Military Child of the Year 2015, U.S. Army, Cavan McIntyre-Brewer.

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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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.

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