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By Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 2015 Army Military Child of the Year

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Army Vice Chief of Staff, General Daniel Allyn, presents the Army Military Child of the Year award to Cavan.

Operation Homefront gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I was honored with a 2015 Military Child of the Year award, along with five other military kids, and had the chance to travel to our nation’s capital and meet some of the people who keep this country safe. Operation Homefront probably didn’t realize it, but they actually granted one of my life dreams: to see the Greensboro Lunch Counter at the National Museum of American History.

Last summer I got to see Stanley Nelson, Jr.’s production of Freedom Summer, a documentary of the attempt to register as many African Americans in Mississippi as possible in 1964. The movie changed me. It made me ask questions about the history of our country and challenged me to look at the world in a different way. One of the moments in history that it depicted was the sit-in by college students at a Woolworth’s store in 1960. The courage of those young black men helped build confidence in people all over the country to make strides for equality for everyone. Their willingness to make a statement that they were Americans who deserved the same rights as white people showed me that our country may not be perfect, but we live in a place where citizens can take a stand and bring about change. Their ambition gave me motivation to continue my efforts to connect the community to those who serve.

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The lunch counter at the F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina (Courtesy National Museum of American History).

Seeing that counter in real life was the perfect way to remind me that being chosen as the Military Child of the Year for the Army wasn’t just about me, but about the work that I still need to do in order to make improvements for our veterans and wounded warriors. It would have been too easy to get swept up in all of the ceremonies and excitement, but Operation Homefront did a great job showing us why we are like those college students who sat at the Woolworth’s counter in 1960. We travelled around Washington, D.C., visiting the service memorials of our great nation. This provided a reminder that the great honor of being chosen as a Military Child of the Year is also a great responsibility.

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Cavan (right) and his fellow Military Child of the Year 2015 recipients in D.C., April 2015.

Each one of the military kids that was recognized is forging a special path that will create change for our country, and our serving parents are like the volunteers involved in the Freedom Summer, willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that all Americans are able to have the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. That is a lot of pressure for all of us, but I am up to the challenge, and I am sure that the other kids honored along with me will also do a great job. Thank you so much, Operation Homefront, and everyone else who made my time in Washington D.C. a great memory. I will never be able to thank you enough.

Operation Homefront is pleased to present the Military Child of the Year® Award to outstanding military children who demonstrate resiliency, leadership and achievement. Recipients representing each service branch are recognized at a Washington, D.C. Gala celebration in April each year. The seventh annual awards gala was held April 16. In addition to the trip to our nation’s capital, recipients are awarded a laptop computer and a $10,000 award. Learn more about our Military Child of the Year, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org. Read about the 2015 recipientsSee pictures from the 2015 gala.

 

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As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Today, the day before Thanksgiving, we’re thankful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Through all of the sacrifice and time apart, our military men and women themselves are full of gratitude for the life they lead, and we’d like to share some of their thoughts with you:

 

Thanksgivingblogpic1For some people, it may sound like a cliché, but for me it’s something that I take pride and cherish. (Being in the military)… changed the way I live my life now. Deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, I learned to appreciate our brothers and sisters in arms as well every American citizen that supports us. Every time we are home they give thanks for our service and those words are the strength, courage and energy we need to continue to fight and defend this great nation we call United States of America. HOOAAH!!!!!!

-W, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army

 

 I am extremely fortunate to have a wife who supports my every move and decision and will stay with me through thick and thin. Being in the military has not only brought my professional dreams to fruition, but has also given me a wonderful life which I wouldn’t change for the world.

-T, Petty Officer First Class, U.S. Navy

 

Thanksgivingblogpic2I always wanted to be a Marine from a very young age. I cannot remember ever wanting to do anything else. Even for Halloween I always dressed up as a Marine. Serving my Country was (a) top priority of mine. I met my wife at my 1st duty station and we moved all over the Country with the Marine Corps. I was seriously wounded in Iraq and that had a major effect on my family as well as my health. I have many health problems and was medically retired in 2009. I miss the Marines every single day and I wish I could still serve. I do not regret anything that I did, only that I could have done more to serve my Country. I am the proud father of 5 amazing kids and have been married almost 13 years now to my wife. Without the military I never would have met her and I definitely would not have the life I have now.

–D, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps

 

Growing up I was always surrounded by family. Everyone was close and everyone cared. As I grew, I grew closer and learned what it meant to have family that cared and loved each other. I learned why we have the freedoms we do, and because of those freedoms, we are able to grow together, and live our lives to the fullest. It was my Uncle Mike who taught me these values. I’ve always seen my Uncle as a smart, wise person who always seemed to have everything under control. Mike is now retired from the Air Force, and growing to look up to him, I knew that I wanted to serve just like him. I wanted to be in the same Air Force that taught him to be the person that he is today. One year and two months ago, that dream came true. Living in Guam for the past ten months is and will continue to be an amazing experience. It’s part of a journey that will take me to new places, and teach me new things. Joining the military has left me with no regrets….-J, Airman First Class, U.S. Air Force

 

To our brave men and women in uniform we say…though duty may keep you away from your friends and family, you are always close to our hearts.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Operation Homefront family.

 

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These are only a few examples of the reasons why our brave men and women in uniform are compelled to answer the call to service, and why they represent the best of America. If you would like to learn more about how you can answer the call when they need it most, please visit

www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall

 

 

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We’re wrapping up our series covering the Home Depot Foundation Hometown Visits to our nation’s heroes in uniform.  Check out Part I, Part II, and Part III if you haven’t had a chance.

She may be a Mom 24/7, but 247Moms blogger Trisha Novotny  jumped at the chance to decorate a tree for a hero when Team Home Depot visited the Jennings family as part of their Celebration of Service 2012.  Little did she know that in giving this gift, she would get an even bigger one in return.

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Santa’s Little Helper

Before the laughter and lights, Trisha talked with the soldier, a wounded warrior, about his injuries, how they have impacted his family, and yet, remained incredibly positive about the future. “Each time I have been part of a Celebration of Service project with Home Depot I gain a greater appreciation and honor for our Veterans and those still serving today – They are true heroes who have sacrificed, given up and truly know the meaning of serving for the sake of others.”

After a delightful evening of holiday fun, Trisha and her boys shared the true spirit of the season. “As we drove away my boys and I discussed this is what Christmas is about serving and giving to others, making new friends and honoring those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.”

What a wonderful lesson for all of us.

homedepothandmadehome2Over at the HandmadeHome, blogger couple Jamin and Ashley Mills were thrilled. “We absolutely adore our veterans and their wonderful service to our country. Last week, we were blessed to take a little bit of Christmas cheer and goodies from Home Depot and Operation Homefront” to the Clark Family .

“We felt honored that these super kind people opened up their home to us and let us help spread a little Christmas cheer.”

Thank You, Jamin and Ashley, for representing how so many of us feel towards our military, veteran and wounded warrior families.

Last but certainly not least, we land in Grand Rapids Michigan with my Dale from Military Avenue and the Purvis family.  The Military Avenue folks have been my Twitter buddies and I did a little happy dance to see they were a part of Home Depot’s Hometown Visits.

Among a living room “covered in pictures and memories from his multiple deployments and service to our country”,…

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….a peek at (possibly) next year’s holiday style trend:

Super Model!

Super Model!

She makes it work.

“Throughout my time with the family we shared plenty of laughs and a few serious and emotional topics.”, writes Dale Kissinger, the Military Avenue blogger. That’s military life, though, and it is a full one.

But these are the faces we remember:

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I am so blessed, as part of Operation Homefront’s Social Media Team, to witness, every day, the inspirational, the brave, the strength, the hope, and the love that defines the lives of the men and women (and their families) who pledge their lives in defense of our nation.  It is a great day when I get to share with you how our communities give back.  I hope you have enjoyed our recap of the Hometwon Visits with the Home Depot Foundation.  To learn more about their pledge to donate $50 million in 3 years to veterans projects and support, or to learn about opportunities for service in your area all year round, visit www.homedepotfoundation.org

Happy Holidays!

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I love the holiday season and the stories of giving, love and kindness that renew our belief in the true goodness of others.  It’s even better when they involve a few of my favorite things: military families, Christmas and service in our community.  Here are three more Holiday Hometown visits with Team Home Depot, Operation Homefront, and military bloggers from around the USA.

Gail Wilson of My Repurposed Life brought her decorating expertise to the Lake Family home at Ft Knox.  She made a really cute video

Admit it, you let out an “Awww” when the little boy kissed the gingerbread house kit.  Priceless.

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A star, a star, shining in the night…

Beneath My Heart blogger Traci Hutcherson describes her visit with her local veteran family perfectly: “..nothing was more beautiful than seeing 11 strangers spend a couple of hours together, sharing stories, decorating a tree, enjoying the season, and honoring the service of our Veterans.” 

Her son Jonathan added to the holiday cheer by breaking out his guitar and playing, “Silent Night”

Rock Star!

Rock Star!

We also learned an important lesson: when you ask a young man whether or not he wants to “put on the skirt”…be sure to clarify you mean the TREE SKIRT.

Simply Kierste blogger Kierste Wade learned a lot about Army life, Iraq and that girls need lots of shoes on her visit with veteran Quinton, his wife Jennifer, and their three year old daughter.

After fighting health issues, Quintin is now retired and looking forward to his future.  One that is a little brighter today thanks to the Home Depot Foundation.

Thank you for your service, Quintin!

Thank you for your service, Quintin!

Be sure to come back in the next few days and hear about the final hometown Celebration of Service visits with Team Home Depot.  In the meantime, check out these ladies blogs for some great holiday decorating and celebrating tips.

Simply Kierste

My Repurposed Life

Beneath My Heart

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Still not a Poet Laureate (see Part I of our series-linked),but that’s okay, because still more bloggers have written about their time as ambassadors of cheer with the Home Depot Foundation, Operation Homefront, and some special families who had their homes decked out in holiday cheer as part of Celebration of Service 2012.

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Team Depot with Decor Chick blogger, Emily, and J&R family

With a handle of DécorChick!, you knew our families would be in good hands with blogger Emily Allison.  How incredible is that her time with Celebration of Service, which she calls “life changing” ends with a holiday visit to give back to those who give so much to protect our country?

Who here would be surprised that a military family you came to say “Thank You” to would send you away with homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows as a thank you to you.

We aren’t.  That’s just how they roll, isn’t it?

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“In My Own Style” blogger Diane Henkler and Home Depot visited with Air Force Captain Marion R. and kids as part of a special Celebration of Service event. (Operation Homefront PA/DE)

I let out a squeal of delight when I saw that the elves made a stop in MY home state of Pennsylvania (If you haven’t had a chance to visit Bethlehem at Christmas Time, put it on your bucket list.  Trust me).

“In My Own Style” blogger Diane Henkler wrote of her visit with Air Force Captain Marion R. and kids , “You are what makes this country and our Military strong”….and we couldn’t agree more.  Marion has been in the service for 27 years, enlisting back in 1985.  She’s also Mom to three amazing kids who understand that sometimes, Mom can’t be there for those special days.

But not this day, and thanks to Diane, the Home Depot Foundation, and our fabulous PA/DE Field Office, they’ll have a wonderful memory to share for years to come.  Check out Diane’s slideshow of her visit.  It is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.

homedepotlovelycraftyhome2Meanwhile, down in North Carolina, even the family dogs were excited to see “ Lovely Craft Home” blogger  Rachael Evans and the Home Depot/Operation Homefront crew .
Look, doggie kisses:

How timely that they arrived just as the family had returned from a Christmas parade?

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After a whirlwind of lights, ornaments and wreaths, the perfect moment of a family around the tree (including wrangled dogs):

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We’ll be back with Part III and even more stories of giving back to those who give so much to us, our military and veteran families.  In the meantime, check out the incredible initiative and commitment of the Home Depot Foundation to our nations veterans.

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