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Every day, the families of our nation’s active duty, wounded warriors and veterans show their unwavering commitment to support and protect our communities. During Military Appreciation Month, you can join Operation Homefront in recognizing our military families and thanking them for their service. Let’s honor those who have served and are continuing to serve our communities across the country.

Support: Help Operation Homefront support military families

The simple act of giving can change the lives of our military families. Your donation could provide power for a month to a military family in need or ensure that power is kept on for wounded warriors who need medical equipment for survival.  Donate today to help us reach our goal of supporting 10 families.

Honor: Send a message of support!

Operation Homefront invites Americans who care about military families to publicly recognize, honor and thank them for their service and support in our communities. Sending in your message of thanks and sharing #Mission2Honor with your friends and family.

Serve: Get Involved!

Without the dedicated support of volunteers, we would not be able to accomplish our mission. From our special event to staff-level volunteers, each person makes a significant difference in the lives of our troops, the families they leave behind, and to our wounded warriors when they return home.  Visit our website to find out more about how you can become a volunteer with Operation Homefront!

 

SEND A MESSAGE: Send a message of thanks and support!

GO SOCIAL: Use our Facebook frame to show your support!

 

It’s More Than Recognition!

Mission2Honor matters today more than ever because the challenges for military families do not end. From deployments and reintegration into civilian life, to the long and short roads of recovery and a career transition, military families face many unique situations. And they need to remain strong, stable and secure for their family, their community and our country. For this reason, Operation Homefront is committed to helping our troops and their families and honoring their service. Their strength benefits all of us.

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When parents doing the best they can to raise their kids need advice, they may consult friends and family, books and blogs, pediatricians and podcasts. The quality of the advice depends on the provider. Authors and doctors may offer professional credentials or even scientific evidence to support their guidance, with or without firsthand knowledge. Siblings and coworkers may base their suggestions on little more than good intentions.

That’s why some of the best advice may come from experienced mothers who are bringing up high achievers, such as the Military Child of the Year® recipients. Raising military children involves some unique challenges, including frequently changing schools, doctors and communities.

Jessica McGrath, whose older son, Alexander, was the 2017 Navy Military Child of the Year Award recipient, has learned a lot about parenting from her family’s experience moving more than seven times. She and her husband, Navy Capt. Richard McGrath, also have a son in seventh grade, Zachary. Alexander is finishing his first at Yale University, and has arranged a summer internship with a member of the British Parliament’s House of Commons.

Jessica recommends some ways parents can help their children succeed:

Be involved in their lives. “The biggest thing is to be an engaged parent,” Jessica said. “It kind of sounds clichéd, but it is very specific to the military child because … of moving so often …” It might be all right for parents who live in the same community for 10 years or more to go on “autopilot” once the child has established friends and activities, she said, but military families face a different situation. As much as possible, research schools, pediatricians and neighborhoods to find the best fit for your child.

For kids who do not handle moving as well, it is even more important to be tuned in, she said. Whenever possible, talk with them about what’s going on. Help them facilitate change if necessary because you may not have time for the issue to resolve itself. “You don’t have that gift of years of time in that one duty station.”

Act as your child’s advocate. “You need to be an advocate for your child, but that can be very positive. It doesn’t have to be an advocate in a complaining sense,” Jessica said.

For example, advocating for your child might mean being aware of and familiar with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which requires states to ensure military kids have the same access to success as civilians, and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals. The compact addresses issues such as graduation requirements, records transfer and course placement.

It boils down to “making your child feel safe and happy and healthy in a new environment,” she said. Asking them “how can I help you learn to do it yourself?”

Tap into the local and military communities. “For a military child to be successful, it’s bloom where you’re planted,” Jessica said. They and their parents may not have had much, if any, control over where they moved, but they can make the most of what a community offers. “For this to really work though, you need support” from both the immediate family and the wider military family at the base or post. “You encourage them to get involved in this new community that you’re in,” whether that’s volunteering, joining teams or clubs, scouting, or whatever interests the child.

Getting involved helps the military children themselves, both in the moment and for future success, but also helps pave the way for other military children, she said. If they set a good example, it makes it that much easier for the community to accept the next military children who come along.

Jessica said another way to join the community is to take advantage of the wealth of information available among military families, and when appropriate, offer your own experiences. “Whatever it is you’re going through, someone has already done that.” In rural areas, Facebook groups of military families and spouses can be especially helpful, with members sometimes offering solutions within 20 minutes of posting. “I have always been amazed by the support,” she said.

Provide continuity. Continuing scouting, swimming, dance or other activities in each new community can help a child adapt, and gives a way to get to know kids who may become friends. An “anchor place,” somewhere you can return periodically, also helps. For the McGraths, it has been a family cabin in Maine. It could be a grandparent’s home, a friend’s place or just a favorite town.

Model how to take the initiative. “Lead by example,” she said. “We see a problem and you just fix it.” If someone needs assistance, your attitude should be “I don’t even know you, but let me drop what I’m doing and help you because I was there” too at one time. For example, Jessica and another spouse stepped in to take over the ombudsman’s responsibilities when that person became ill and had to bow out. The ombudsman is the liaison between the squadron and the ship’s command.

Teach that actions have consequences, and you control your actions. Whether it’s their own actions or someone else’s, decisions have a larger effect. “That’s, I think, the ultimate learning experience,” Jessica said. “You’re empowering them.” If a student at school got in trouble, talk about factors that may have contributed. Discuss empathy. If a friend got into college, discuss the many steps that led to that good news.

Develop a positive relationship with your kids. Jessica said if she has a parenting super power, it’s probably investing the time required for closeness and easy rapport with her sons. “They feel comfortable taking to me, and telling me their problems but also their successes, and us working together as a team.”

Realize that no two children are the same. You can strengthen a child’s attributes, and they each have their own individual qualities. Alex finds and pursues his own opportunities with tenacity. She doesn’t find them for him. But she did teach him social skills, and to always be polite, which helped him interact in ways that led to positive outcomes. “He has this inner drive that I didn’t give him,” she said. “My gift was maybe getting your foot in the door.”

Focus on the positive. Jessica acknowledges that the moving process itself isn’t always fun, but says the pros can outweigh the cons. “It builds your character, it builds resiliency. You become a better person, and basically, that sets you up to be a very successful adult.”

Meeting various challenges gives you strength to draw upon, teaches you what works and what doesn’t, and even gives you good conversation starters, she said. “Non-military kids don’t always get that opportunity, which I actually think is a blessing to learn and grow.”

Take care of yourself. Explore classes at local community colleges. Jessica, who graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in management and retail buying, has worked in her field, but also reinvented herself numerous times. She worked for a company that sells mutual funds and insurance, for an attorney and for the Navy Exchange. She volunteered in advocacy for military families, helping with family readiness groups and CORE, or Continuum of Resource Education, which provides seminars and volunteers dedicated to enriching Navy spouses and families. Later, Jessica discovered a love for art and took classes in metalsmithing and photography. She is now a designer at the Baltimore Jewelry Center.

Richard McGrath, a former Navy pilot, is a professor of operations research at the Naval Academy.

Aside from being personally proud to see Alexander’s hard work pay off when he received the MCOY award, Jessica said it was even more special and meaningful knowing that he represents many other military children, “validating their breadth of experience, the resiliency of the military child.” Alex is friends with another 2017 MCOY award recipient, Henderson Heussner, who also attends Yale. Jessica said she’s glad the two of them share a common bond and background from their military upbringing.

“Just to see what a military child can accomplish is such an amazing, rewarding thing,” she said. “I love Operation Homefront and everything that they do.”

 

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Christopher Rodriguez was our Military Child of the Year for the U.S. Marine Corps. Now a Marine himself, we had the chance to touch base with him to talk about his journey since we last saw him. (Read Christopher’s profile from 2015).

In the 2½ years since Christopher Rodriguez received Operation Homefront’s Marine Corps Military Child of the Year award, he has completed half his classes toward a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and become a private first class in the Marine Reserve.

While he has one graduation ahead of him — Christopher expects to finish his University of Nevada, Las Vegas degree in 2020 — he completed a big milestone Oct. 6, graduating from basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Camp Pendleton, California.

The grueling 13-week, three-phase program was tough, but worth it, Christopher said. “Earning the title of Marine, receiving the eagle, globe and anchor [emblem] at the top of the Reaper was a very rewarding and proud moment for myself,” he said, referring to the last obstacle at Camp Pendleton, California, a mountain that recruits must scale before becoming Marines. “Being a Marine was something I’ve always wanted to do.”

The last phase of the training, known as The Crucible, culminates at the Reaper, and is physically and mentally challenging, “pushing your limits that you wouldn’t have expected you could do in the very beginning of it,” Christopher said. Though he had to miss a semester for boot camp, he learned a lot of valuable lessons there, such as how best to achieve goals while working with other people’s flaws and strengths. “Being able to do that kind of gave me some more confidence,” he said.

Family support was key to finishing each day with a positive mindset, Christopher said. “The main motivation for me, getting through the whole process was definitely my family, said Christopher, adding that letters from his parents, grandparents and other family members comforted him.

Another incentive that drove him to finish: his appetite. “When I graduated, I wanted to eat real food. I missed a lot of the home cooking. The first thing I ate, we went to a Mexican restaurant, and I just ordered the fattest burrito that was on the menu.”

When Christopher graduated from Lejeune High School, North Carolina, he wasn’t sure he wanted to join the Marines right out of high school, so he took time to think about it while attending college. “Now I’m ready for it,” he said. “I was all for it.”

One factor that helped him make up his mind was spending time with family. He, his parents and two younger siblings moved to Las Vegas to be closer to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Chris’ stepfather, retired Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Smith, is now a Marine JROTC instructor at a local high school. “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” said Christopher’s mom, Griscelda Smith, who teaches toddlers at a child care center. Christopher’s 17-year-old sister, Jazzlyn, and 15-year-old brother, Kilyn, are in the Navy JROTC program at a different high school.

It was important to Chris to be involved in family members’ lives. Having done that, he felt content with his decision to join the Marine Corps, knowing, “If I do deploy, I got to spend my time with family.”

After two more months of training at Camp Pendleton, Chris will drill as a reservist on weekends and up to two weeks a month at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Nellis AFB, Nevada. He plans to go through Officer Candidates School to become a commissioned Marine Corps officer, graduating as a second lieutenant.

“Our goal as a parent, he needs to finish school,” his mom said.

Chris said later in life, he might like to go back to school for environmental science, studying renewable and reusable energy. “I find that very interesting,” he said of the field, in which some of his family members work. “A cleaner environment for everyone to live in, to me is very important,” Chris said.

One of Christopher’s favorite memories from the Washington, D.C., trip for the Military Child of the Year gala was getting to know the other 2015 recipients, a memory later marred by the death of National Guard recipient Zachary Parsons, who was killed in a February 2016 car accident. “It was a tragic moment,” Christopher said. “It hit me hard. We all got close. He was a great guy.”

Seeing the Washington sights and memorials was a “big wow moment,” that gave him appreciation for our country’s history, and that he will always cherish, Christopher said.

Another highlight: Meeting the high-ranking officers who attended the MCOY gala and had a good influence on him, especially now-retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Stay motivated, whatever you’re doing with your life,” Christopher advised future MCOY recipients. “Keep moving forward. Keep providing for your community.” He said he knows philanthropic people, such as MCOY recipients, like feeling proud for giving back and helping others, so he encouraged them to be “that leader, that role model in your family and for your friends, for your school.”

“Stay being yourself,” he advised. “Be humble.”

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Operation Homefront is pleased to announce the seven winners of the prestigious 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award, the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of our military children.

The 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award recipients are as follows:

 

2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Army:

Rebekah Paxton, 17

Harrisonville, Missouri

Home School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Navy:

Isabelle Richards, 13

Jamul, California

High Tech Middle School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Military Child of the Year® , U.S. Marine Corps:

Joshua Frawley, 14

Jacksonville, North Carolina

White Oak High School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Air Force:

Eve Glenn, 16

Tampa, Florida

T. R. Robinson High School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Military Child of the Year®, U.S. Coast Guard:

Roark Corson, 17

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Ocean Lakes High School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Military Child of the Year®, National Guard:

Aaron Hall, 16

Coarsegold, California

Minarets High School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation:

Shelby Barber, 17

Ewa Beach, Hawaii

James Campbell High School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the awards, which each year has provided the extraordinary young recipients with opportunities to be recognized by senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

The Military Child of the Year® Award reflects the positive impact that these special young people have made on their military families, their schools, and their communities. The award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C., to be recognized at a gala on April 19, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards. They also will each receive $10,000, a laptop computer, and other donated gifts. The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a Booz Allen Hamilton team to develop a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking as a part of the corporation’s competitive Summer Games.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we profile each recipient.

A huge thanks to United Technologies Corporation for being our gala’s presenting sponsor. Additional sponsors include Booz Allen Hamilton, MidAtlanticBroadband, LaQuinta Inns & Suites, and Procter & Gamble. Military Times is the media sponsor.

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Veteran Receives Mortgage-Free Home in Washington, North Carolina:

today awarded a mortgage-free home to U.S. Marine Sergeant Ronald Seaver and wife, U.S. Marine Corporal Laura Seaver, through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program. The home was donated by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“We are extremely excited to become home owners,” said Ronald. “This new house means stability because before we were constantly moving.”

“My kids will be able to make friends and have a room – I love the fact that we will be stable and close to Laura’s family,” added Ronald. “This is life-changing, thank you Operation Homefront and Chase and God bless you all – you all are in my prayers.”

After receiving great scores as a firefighter, Ronald rose to the rank of sergeant. He served as an aircraft rescue and firefighter specialist. Some of his responsibilities were to perform applicable firefighting functions and assist in all phases of rescue incidents. During his 10-year term, he was deployed to Iraq in 2008. In 2012, he medically retired with an honorable discharge.

Ronald met his wife Laura through a mutual friend. Laura was also a Marine and was inspired to serve because she herself comes from a military family. Her sister, brother, and father were service members. She was stationed at Parris Island, South Carolina, and he was stationed five miles north in Beaufort. Ronald and Laura have been married for 10 years and have three children, two sons and a daughter.

Laura’s family lives in the Greenville area and will be closer to them, school, and the Veterans Affairs Hospital for Ronald. His plans are to spend quality time with his children and go back to school and earn a bachelor’s degree in public administration or human resources. Laura is going to school and plans to finish her second associates degree in human resources and bachelor’s degree in business administration by next year.

In 2012, Operation Homefront created the Homes on the Homefront program with the assistance of corporate partners to award mortgage-free homes to our nation’s veterans and military families. They have awarded over 600 homes to military families nationwide through the program.

Operation Homefront has provided since inception over $64 million dollars in home equity to military families. The homes are donated by bank partners, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other major financial services companies and home builders.

Anyone looking for more information or to apply can go to www.homesonthehomefront.org.

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About Operation Homefront:

Founded in 2002, Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity oversight groups, 92 percent of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs that support tens of thousands of military families each year. Operation Homefront provides critical financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing and family support services to prevent short-term needs from turning into chronic, long-term struggles. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the support from thousands of volunteers, Operation Homefront proudly serves America’s military families.

For more information, visit OperationHomefront.org.

JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to service members and veterans:

JPMorgan Chase, a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide, has supported our veterans since before World War I. The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs (MVA), started in 2011, has hired more than 12,000 veterans and facilitated more than 400,000 veteran hires through the Veteran Jobs Mission coalition; awarded more than 950 mortgage-free homes to military families in need; 17 in South Carolina; helped 9,520 veterans and spouses – at no cost – complete 15,554 courses through the Veterans Career Transition Program, which was co-founded and is supported by JPMorgan Chase and Syracuse University; and invested $4.2 million to support veteran-owned small businesses through access to capital and education.

Learn more at: www.jpmorganchase.com/veterans

 

 

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Dustin and Bethany at the ceremony.

Surrounded by the flash of cameras and the buzz of journalists requesting an interview, U.S. Army veteran Dustin Perkins received red-carpet treatment as he prepared himself to accept the Veteran’s Education Award at this year’s Vetty Awards.

“It was super exciting, there were a lot of actors and actresses there. John Kelly, Jake Tapper and Nate Boyer…it was overwhelming.”

Coming from a strong military family, Dustin always saw a future of serving. At age 25, he decided to follow his father’s footsteps and enlist in the Army, not far from his hometown of Bensenville, IL. He served four years as a watercraft engineer and rose to the rank of specialist before being honorably discharged in 2010.

After transitioning from military to civilian life, Dustin decided to dedicate himself to helping other service members adjust after the military.

Dustin with Jake Tapper.

“I know it’s been said time and time again, but in the military, you are told where to be, at what time, in uniform. Everything is predetermined,” Dustin said. “Suddenly you don’t have that. It sounds small but suddenly you find yourself thinking, what do I do?”

As Dustin entered civilian life, he wanted to establish roots for him and his family. Dustin heard about Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program from his college’s Veterans Club. One of his friends was a recipient and encouraged him to apply.

Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, Dustin was a recipient of a mortgage-free home in 2016.

“I felt really warm and fuzzy and just overwhelmed with excitement when I received that call.” Dustin said. “It’s close to my job and having this home has improved my quality of life, financially and emotionally.”

Dustin with Nate Boyer.

A few years later, he is being recognized for his efforts to help his fellow veterans achieve their educational goals.

Dustin recalls the moment one of his coworkers nominated him for the award.

“He called me into his office and asked me, ‘Tell me what it is you do for that nonprofit?’ As I was telling him I noticed him typing and asked what he was doing,” Dustin said. “He just said, ‘Oh, I’m just nominating you for this award.’”

Dustin had never heard of the Vetty Awards before then, and now stood on the red carpet with people he admired, all there to celebrate him.

“Everybody was very welcoming,” Dustin said. “It was overwhelming and

Dustin with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly

nerve-wracking but amazing to be a part of. It felt like we were the stars instead of them. We felt honored and very special to be there.” See a Facebook Live feed of Dustin receiving his award.

Dustin has dedicated 1.5 years as volunteer Director of Marketing for Student Veterans of America, an organization whose mission is to provide programs, mentorship events, motivation and volunteer opportunities for veterans. Before that, he was president of the Veterans Club at his college.

As for what lies ahead, Dustin has received a promotion at his job at ITsavvy. He is currently working to receive his Project Management Certification and hopes to start a family in the near future.

For service members facing transition, Dustin offers some advice.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s a multitude of assets and resources out there for you. Don’t be shy. Use them.”

To learn more about Operation Homefront programs or how you can support the current needs of military families in your community, please visit www.operationhomefront.org/needs/list

-Interview and blog by Cynthia Leyva

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We are pleased to be able to share with our community a New Year’s message from Operation Homefront’s President & CEO, John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Happy New Year!  We just finished a very exciting and highly successful 2017 and I am proud to say that due to the exceptional efforts of our entire community … volunteers, partners, donors and staff … we are well postured to continue delivering impactful programs to America’s military families throughout 2018.

As we start our new year, I feel it is important to reflect on who we are and why we do what we do. We at Operation Homefront believe in giving our military families the opportunity to thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.

This mission statement drives our team throughout the year.  All work to help our military families in their time of need because of all they have done for us in our nation’s time of need.

Similarly, I believe very strongly in Operation Homefront’s core values and see them as more than grand aspirational concepts and know you do too. They are real guides that shape our decisions and daily behaviors:  Do What’s Right, Respect Others, Perform with Excellence … and of course, Gratitude. We are honored to be recognized as a key conduit by which Americans can show their appreciation for all that our military community does on our behalf, and we are incredibly grateful to all who help us accomplish our mission.

We have many challenges and opportunities ahead in 2018 and it will take a well-coordinated and cohesive effort to bring our vital mission to life. Each member of our community performs a critical role, both individually and as part of a larger team. Our Core Values provide the common framework that allows us to work together and support each other in a culture that emphasizes trust and continuous improvement.

Only by working together will we make a difference, and thereby, make the lives of a very special and deserving group of our fellow citizens better. For example, in just a short while, we will award our 600th mortgage-free home, and our Field Offices and programs team are already working on our year’s first Homefront Celebration for military spouses near Pensacola, a Hearts of Valor retreat for the caregivers of our nation’s wounded, among many other events for 2018. Just last week, we announced the semi-finalists for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® Award, our 10th year of recognizing outstanding young people from each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life

I invite you to learn more about Operation Homefront’s programs, and how you can get involved in 2018.

Sharing our noble mission with my fellow Americans is incredibly rewarding. I am grateful to each you who have joined us in serving America’s military families. Let me end by saying thank you, in advance, for your support in what I expect will be an amazing 2018!

-John I. Pray, Jr.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Operation Homefront

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