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Miryam Smith, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Navy, remembers her father telling her that hard work pays off and that she could achieve anything she put her mind to. Those words have been Miryam’s motivation since her father, retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Eduardo Smith, took his own life in 2016.

Navy_Miryam Smith 2

The tragedy, she said, taught her resilience. Two days after her father’s devastating death, Miryam returned to school to finish up final exams, committed to living a happy, fulfilling life and maintaining the excellent grades her dad appreciated.

Now a 17-year-old senior at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she is seeing dividends from her hard work.

Miryam excels in her school’s Global Studies and World Languages Academy, and she looks forward to fall, when she will attend American University’s School of Foreign Service. She plans to study International Relations and possibly minor in Environmental Science.

Miryam, an only child, is the daughter of Macarena Smith, who works for the U.S. Marine Corps as a protocol officer.

Miryam’s three military moves with her family cultivated her fascination with other cultures and world travel.

“My favorite part of being a military child was the opportunities to travel to many places at a very young age,” she said. When stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, the family traveled throughout Europe. “One holiday weekend we decided to take a road trip to Prague in the Czech Republic, and I remember it as being one of my favorite ones.”

In all, Miryam has visited 23 countries, four of them on her own. On a trip to the Normandy region of France with her school, Miryam felt particular pride in being a military child.

As her group left a World War II museum close to one of the Normandy beaches, Miryam saw a cemetery filled with hundreds of perfectly aligned white tombstones that were decorated with American flags.

“I was overwhelmed with pride, for I had never seen so many American flags in my life. At that moment I realized how many brave soldiers had sacrificed their lives to help liberate France in the war,” she said. “Although my dad did not serve in World War II, I know he made several sacrifices for his country throughout his military career, and knowing that made me very proud to be his daughter.”

Miryam understands that military children might dread moving, with changing schools, making new friends, and adjusting to a new home in a new location. She urges them to keep an open mind. “It gives you the chance to meet new people, create new memories, and possibly learn more about other cultures.” Navy_Miryam Smith 1

Miryam invests time in her community, volunteering with the Be a Reader program to read to elementary school children and mentoring children at a shelter for the homeless.

She enjoys sailing small vessels and catamarans and finds stress relief in playing piano, frequently duplicating tunes she hears on the radio.

Favorite quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails.” – Mark Twain

Service/Leadership Highlights:

  • Events organizer, Global Studies and World Languages Academy International Cafes
  • Volunteer, Be a Reader program for elementary school children
  • Mentor, Care by Community
  • President Spanish Honor Society
  • Vice President Global Studies Honor Society
  • Varsity Swim Team
  • Student Athlete Leadership Training
  • Academic letter, Global Studies and World Languages Academy, 9th-12th grades

Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Linked In 

Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.

Read previous 2020 recipient profiles:

Niklas Cooper, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Marine Corps

Fionnuala Mahoney, 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the U.S. Army

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A Message from Our President and CEO, Gen. John I. Pray, Jr., to Our Military Families, Supporters, and Friends

Over the past several weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, we, as Americans, have experienced a fundamental change in our way of life.  I want all to know that despite this change and those that may follow, Operation Homefront stands ready to support our military families during this national crisis.  The entire Operation Homefront family – staff, board members, volunteers, corporate/foundation/individual donors and other key stakeholders, is committed to our vital mission and to ensuring our military families receive the financial assistance they urgently need – when they need it.

As our nation works to cope with the many unknowns, we are grateful for the continued support of those who are very likely facing their own challenges. Simply put, we could not do what we do to support this very special and deserving group of our fellow citizens without your various contributions to our important work.  Working together, as we have done for so many years, I know we will be able to help our military families – and each other – as we deal with this crisis.

View our CEO’s message here.

 

More details can also be found on our website at www.operationhomefront.org.

Please also follow us on our social media for the latest from Operation Homefront.  You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Resources:

CDC webpage on COVID-19

Department of Defense Coronavirus Page

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As a military spouse of 20 years, Aileen Boone knows the difficulty of connecting and making new friends with each move. Her most recent was to San Antonio, where she and her husband had been for 18 months before she heard about Operation Homefront’s Homefront Celebration program, which celebrates the service of our military spouses.

Aileen was one of more than 80 military spouses who recently attended the special night of dinner, dancing and making new friends. She met Rita Valdez, a 12-year military spouse, and the two planned on staying in touch.

Rita and Aileen struck up a friendship at Homefront Celebration San Antonio, TX. The two plan to stay in touch.

 

“It’s uplifting and it’s nice to meet people going through the same things,” Aileen said. “We’ve got a common bond.”

Rita agreed, adding that she had already texted her husband who was in training in Dallas that she was having a great time.

“Everything is totally awesome,” she said. “It gives us a moment for ourselves and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Along with door prizes and a very popular S’mores bar, guests also enjoyed speaker Brittany Boccher, a military spouse since 2005 and founder of Discovering Your Spark: Find Your Color in a Camouflage World.

Brittany gave a mini version of her workshop that was created to help military spouses find their passion and balance in life. She now does consulting and speaking engagements to help promote the needs of military spouses both inside and outside the military community.

The Feb. 7 event was made possible through the generous support of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). As part of the celebration, SNHU presented Eliana Cornejo with a four-year scholarship. Married for 10 years to Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Kevin Cornejo and mom to two children, the scholarship comes at a great time for Eliana, who plans to pursue a business administration degree that she will use for a new career and to assist at her church.

“I’m so grateful (to donors) they are opening so many doors and providing so many opportunities,” Eliana said. Hear more about Eliana’s journey as a military spouse here.

Since Operation Homefront began Homefront Celebrations in 2009, the program has served more than 8,600 military spouses.

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by Tracy Lehman, Operation Homefront

As a full-time caregiver for her wounded-warrior husband and a mom of two, Angela Walter works every day to keep her family safe.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, woman put extra thought into emergency preparedness. “What are you going to do if whoever you’re caring for freaks out” in an emergency, she wondered.

Having an emergency plan in place can help the whole family get to safety if they need to evacuate.

Angela, who volunteers with Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor caregiver support program as a group facilitator in Colorado, shared tips for fire safety and emergency planning.

Sound the alarm

Did you know smoke alarms expire? The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacement every 10 years. The date of manufacture should be on the back of the alarm.

Check that smoke detectors are installed on each level of your home – including the basement – and in each bedroom or outside each sleeping area.

Plans B and C

How would you get out of your home if the main exit is blocked? Make an escape plan, and practice it with your family.

“We live in a townhouse, and we would have to jump out our window in the back,” Angela said. The drop would be about 15 feet, so the family added a ladder in the back.

Angela Walter, a Hearts of Valor facilitator, is a caregiver for her husband, retired Army Spc. Daniel Walter. Their children, Hunter and Ariana, know their roles in emergency situations.

Call for help

Establish a communication board with emergency phone numbers. Post the board in a prominent place in the home, and make sure the numbers are easy to access in everyone’s phones. Don’t forget to update when numbers change.

Give family members – even older children – responsibilities such as helping get pets or younger children to safety. List each person’s tasks, and review those regularly.  (The CDC has a great page with info and tools for preparing children)

Just in case

Store backup copies of vital documents – insurance papers and drivers licenses, for example – on a flash drive that can be stored away from your house. Send the drive to a family member or stash it in a safety deposit box.

Do you have tips on emergency preparedness? Share in the comments.

Related topics:

Top 3 tips for helping your family adjust after a move

Did you know?

Operation Homefront has a Critical Financial Assistance program? Click here to learn more.

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Military Child of the Tear 2020-SemifinalistsNinety-five military children have advanced as semifinalists in Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award program

This year marks the 12th anniversary of this special event as the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of America’s military children, reflecting the positive impact they’ve made on their families, schools, and communities. The Military Child of the Year® Award is a lifelong source of pride for the recipients. Participating in the program provides them with amazing opportunities to meet senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

The following are all the 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award semifinalists by service branch. Semifinalists for the 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation are also designated:

Army

Jonathan Bailon, 17, Corpus Christi, Texas

Abigail Birano, 16, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

Jordan Daugherty, 18, Alexandria, Va. Daugherty is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

Lauryn Dixon, 17, Cabot, Ark.

Peyton Faulk, 17, Lansing, Kan.

Coralynn Fisher, 14, Stafford, Va.

Ashley Gorrell, 16, Fort Polk, La.

Morgan Kim, 15, Richmond Hill, Ga.

Fionnuala Mahoney, 18, Bethesda, Md.

Amara Park, 18, Fort Belvoir, Va.

Olivia Starz, 16, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Austin Theroux, 17, Cranston, R.I.

Anna Torres, 16, Fort Riley, Kan.

Anna Turlington, 16, Cecilia, Ky.

Devin Woods, 17, Bel Air, Md.

Marine Corps

Aubriannah Aittama, 14, New Bern, N.C.

Lee Balderaz Jr., 17, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Niklas Cooper, 16, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Dean Fecteau, 18, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Hunter Galvin, 17, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Clyde Harris, 17, Oceanside, Ca.

Payton Jeffers, 17, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Harmony Jones, 14, East Garrison, Calif.

Jason Morrison II, 17, Maysville, N.C.

Iain Nicol, 13, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Abigail Paquin, 17, Tarawa Terrace, N.C.

Ethan Perdew, 17, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Gabrielle Ryder, 17, Smithsburg, Md. Ryder is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

Justin Skillings, 13, Tarawa Terrace, N.C.

Michayla Wittner, 16, Jacksonville, N.C.

Navy

Michael Archie, 18, Pensacola, Fla.

Catherine Besachio, 17, Norfolk, Va.

Danielle Bilotta, 18, Albuquerque, N.M.

Chloe Cullen, 17, Petaluma, Calif. Cullen is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Logan DeLisle, 17, Beavercreek, Ohio

Nai’a Freeman, 17, Cathlamet, Wash.

Wester Gapasangra, 16, Honolulu, Hawaii

Sawyer Getschman, 17, RAF Molesworth, England

John Grady, 18, Chula Vista, Calif.

Jalen Hines, 17, St Johns, Fla.

Kaitlin Howard, 16, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Kainath Kamil, 16, Oceanside, Calif. Kamil is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Katherine Kennedy, 17, Crozet, Va.

Miryam Smith, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Lauryn Williams, 18, St Johns, Fla.

Air Force

Lance Almand, 16, Southlake, Texas

Kabryni Bruening, 17, Sembach, Germany

Audrey Camper, 15, Talofofo, Guam

Marina Cardoso, 15, Minot AFB, N.D.

Jessop Collins, 17, Bedford, Mass.

Brianna Cooley, 14, Bossier City, La.

Taylor Curro, 17, Carrollton, Va.

Merideth Curwen, 17, Tokyo, Japan

Samantha Grab, 18, O’Fallon, Ill.

Rachel Kent, 18, Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Jordyn McNeal, 13, Apollo Beach, Fla.

Taylor Sandlin, 17, Cedar Park, Texas

Jacob Taylor, 17, Tucson, Ariz.

Brian Thompson, 17, Bel Air, Md.

Stephen Wolf, 13, Xenia, Ohio

Coast Guard

Alexis Blyth, 18, Santa Rita, Guam

Liam Cooper, 17, Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Pierce Corson, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Jade Davis, 16, Alexandria, Va.

Callie Graziani, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Ethan Hunt, 18, Key West, Fla.

Veronica Kavanaght, 16, Orlando, Fla.

John (Jack) Kennedy, 17, Grangeville, Idaho

Kimberly Locke, 17, La Plata, Md.

Hennessy Martinez, 17, San Deigo, Calif.

Kaytlyn Meyer, 17, Owensboro, Ky.

Evelyn Nutt, 16, Ketchikan, Alaska

Tucker Pullen, 17, Bahrain

Tyler Schultz, 17, Forestdale, Mass.

Giavanna Vinciguerra, 14, Palmetto Bay, Fla.

National Guard

Logan Carter, 18, Clinton, Mo.

Bethany Chacon, 17, Albuquerque, N.M.

James Chattaway, 13, Stanton, Calif.

Olivia Chiancone, 17, Winterville, N.C.

Easton Christainsen, 16, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Maya Faulds, 16, Barnegat, N.J.

Victoria Fillipi, 18, Anthon, Iowa

Hannah Grau, 14, Virginia Beach, Va.

Anna Harris, 18, Warrior, Ala.

Audrey Hartgraves, 14, League City, Texas

Gavin Holland, 18, White House, Tenn.

Kristina Lee, 18, Galion, Ohio

Maycie Madsen, 18, Richfield, Utah

Allison Roper, 16, Morganton, N.C. Roper is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Noah Sherman, 17, Acworth, Ga.

Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation

Shaylee Barber, 17, Clinton, Utah, Air Force

Chloe Cullen, 17, Petaluma, Calif., Navy

Jordan Daughterty, 18, Alexandria, Va., Army

Denitsa Dimitrova, 17, Virginia Beach, Va., Army

Kainath Kamil, 16, Oceanside, Calif., Navy

Hannah Lipschutz, 17, Charleston, S.C., National Guard

Kaileen Myers, 17, Virginia Beach, Va., Navy

Clairissa Nivens, 17, Chillicothe, Mo., National Guard

Allison Roper, 16, Morganton, N.C., National Guard

Gabrielle Ryder, 17, Smithsburg, Md., Marine Corps

Thirty-five finalists will be selected in February by a panel of judges chosen by Operation Homefront’s senior leadership and Booz Allen Hamilton, a global technology and management consulting firm. The final seven award recipients will be announced in March and will travel to Washington, D.C. to be recognized at a gala on April 2, during which senior leaders from each branch of service will present the awards. They’ll also each receive $10,000, a laptop, and other donated gifts.

Six Military Child of the Year® Award recipients will represent 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.

The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. This award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge. The Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a team at the BAH firm, developing a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking.

More information about the Military Child of the Year® Awards is available at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

For media inquiries, please contact Mike Lahrman at communications@operationhomefront.org or call (210) 202-1243.

Inquiries regarding sponsorship of Military Child of the Year® can be sent to development@operationhomefront.org.

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Military Child of the Year Recipients

Clockwise from left to right: Isabelle Richards, Campbell Miller, Eve Glenn, Elisabeth Lundgren, Shelby Barber, Brandon Mammano.

As the deadline nears to nominate outstanding military teens for Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards, past winners tell us what being a Military Child of the Year has meant for them. Their work and their stories are amazing! Here, six previous recipients reflect on the impact of the awards on their lives:

Isabelle Richards, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Since being Named the Navy MCOY in 2018, my ability to help inspire change in others has accelerated. I am a grassroots girl who previously helped wounded warriors in a few states. Currently, I am proud to say I serve wounded warriors , healing heroes and veterans in 45 states!

Operation Homefront’s award put what I do on an entirely different networking level. This past year I made or had delivered almost 11,000 cupcakes and cards to those service members and veterans. That is almost 11,000 service members and veterans who know they are still cared about and honored!

Thank you, Operation Homefront, for changing the trajectory of what impact I could have!

Campbell Miller, 2019 Military Child of the Year, National Guard

I am blessed and honored just to have been nominated in the past, but especially to have been chosen. The friendships that I created with the other winners while together have lasted and have been very impactful. We still encourage one another, talk to each other about significant life events, and sometimes just laugh together.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have come from receiving the award and I am excited for the recipients of 2020.

Eve Glenn, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Air Force

Selection as a MCOY finalist gave me the platform to honor my father, who at the time was a in the United States Air Force. Now, I continue to partner with Operation Homefront during the academic year and summer to promote the MCOY award and work on supplementary projects within the nonprofit.

Recognition from Operation Homefront and the MCOY empowered me to advocate for military populations in college and beyond.

Elisabeth Lundgren, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Winning MCOY was surreal. It was amazing to see how many people I could inspire just by being myself.

Winning was an amazing way to show my dad that my success didn’t suffer just because he missed out on big parts of my life. My success in swimming and in the classroom happened not in spite of my dad’s service but because of my dad’s service.

Shelby Barber, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Innovation

Winning MCOY has connected me to so many people who understand how I feel. I have a better understanding of Operation Homefront and other programs out there to help military families, which also allows me to inform other military families about these programs that can relieve so much pressure from hard situations. Winning the innovation award helped my higher education advance as I have clear goals and good starting points.

Brandon Mammano, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Innovation

I definitely have been very blessed to have won this award because it has given me the opportunity to work with Booz Allen Hamilton and see how they function as this gigantic consulting firm and how they break down all these processes to get a job done. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s breath-taking to see that.

Having so many people create solutions and seeing the different paths they’ve thought for my project of is absolutely amazing. I’ve seen my it grow from an being an idea to become physical entities.

I’ve also made new friends for life. Each one of the MCOY recipient’s stories shows you a different aspect of military life. But we all have felt that sense of being alone sometimes, and that’s when we have to lean on each other.

To nominate the terrific military child in your life,
go to www.militarychildoftheyear.org and click Submit Here.

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Since spring, when Brandon Mammano won the 2019 Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, the college freshman has seen his dinner-table idea develop into a global initiative that could launch in early 2020.

Mammano, a freshman mechanical engineering major at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, has worked with global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton – sponsor of the award – to grow his vision for helping children of military members adapt to new schools and communities when their families are reassigned.

Brandon has worked with global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to grow his vision for helping children of military members adapt to new schools and communities when their families are reassigned.

“It feels like a dream,” said Mammano, the son of Mimi and John Mammano, an Air Force colonel stationed at Hickham AFB in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “It started as a dinner conversation with my parents, and now it’s something that can help people across the United States and globally.”

The Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation is one of seven awards presented by Operation Homefront to celebrate the achievements of military children. Nominations are open through Dec. 9, and awards will be presented April 2 in Washington, D.C.

The annual awards recognize outstanding young people ages 13 to 18 who are legal dependents of a service member or military retiree. Six Military Child of the Year recipients will represent a branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — demonstrating resiliency, leadership, and achievement during their parents’ military service. The innovation award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge.

The 19-year-old Mammano based his initiative on the outreach program for active-duty service members. He worked with his father’s unit to include a welcome letter to help ease the stress of students who are starting over.

Mammano understands that stress. By the time he was a senior in high school, his family had moved eight times. His longest stay in one school was three years. That, he said, was lucky.

“Even though I’ve moved around, it’s still hard finding out what there is to do (in a new community) and what clubs (a school) has,” he said. “I wanted to give kids an idea of what they have before they arrive (at their new school).”

Now, less than a year after winning the MCOY Award for Innovation, Mammano has seen his idea blossom from abstract to concrete with input from the Booz Allen Hamilton team.

“Seeing the different routes and paths they’ve thought of is absolutely amazing,” he said. The project has grown to include a website and an application that makes it easier for students to connect with peers in their new communities.

“They can start making plans with friends before they arrive,” Mammano said.

The program is set to launch in the Washington, D.C., area and Europe in early 2020. As Mammano looks forward to the roll-out, he is also relishing the experience.

“I have been very blessed to have won this award because it has given me the opportunity to work with Booz Allen Hamilton and see how they … break down all these processes to get a job done. It’s breath-taking to see that,” he said.

“This program has taught me so much that I can use in whatever endeavor I pursue in life.”

To nominate a child for the MCOY Award for Innovation or another MCOY award, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org and click the Nominations tab.

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