Select a previous year to view past recipients of the Military Child of the Year® Award.
Gage Alan Dabin, Air Force
Gage Dabin maintains a 4.0 GPA balancing a full load of Advanced Placement courses, varsity sports, and leadership in community service organizations. Gage was nominated by his school guidance counselor, Seante Banks. Ms. Banks wrote, “He doesn’t merely understand and act in accordance with what is moral and true, he instead leaves no doubt; through his positive outlook, his enormous smile, unmistakable laugh, concerning demeanor and confidence in himself, his community and his world.”
Gage has received nominations to all service academies and is awaiting appointments. He hopes to serve as a Foreign Area Officer but Gage says “I will test to see if I qualify for special operations.” After his military experience, he would enjoy working as a war correspondent.
His family has a long tradition of military service. Gage’s great-grandfathers were in WWII and one went on to serve in Korea. His grandfather retired from the Navy. His cousin and uncle went to the Naval Academy—one served in the Marines and the other went into the Navy and served in Vietnam.
Gage volunteers with Anchorage’s Promise:Youth Advisory Board where his team created a citywide campaign, Random Texts of Kindness, with fellow teens highlighting bullying awareness and suicide prevention. A board member of Anchorage’s Promise, Amey Armachain, shares that Gage shows more character and integrity than adults twice his age. “Gage showed his commitment to service, his leadership, and a level of character you don’t typically see in youth his age.” Gage also volunteers at the local VA Hospital, homeless shelter, food bank, and every other week serves meals at a local soup kitchen. Gage also tutors students in English and advanced math.
While other kids lament that moving is hard, Gage thinks the frequent change has allowed him to grow, raised his appreciation of other cultures, and considers it a life filled with “once in a lifetime experiences that I will forever cherish, all thanks to being a military brat.”
Gage is the eldest of four children of Tobias and Jennifer Adam. His siblings include his brother Corben (16), his sister Tori (15), and his brother, Tobias (12). Mrs. Adam is a mortgage specialist. Mr. Adam is a Senior Master Sergeant Deputy Fire Chief with the 673rd Civil Engineer Squadron at JBER and the recipient of the 2012 Department of Defense Military Fire Officer of the Year Award.
JBER Keystone, President (Soph-Sr year)
Anchorage Youth Advisory Board, Vice President
Military Youth of the Year-Alaska 2013
Pacific Air Force (PACAF) Youth of the Year 2013
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) Youth of the Year 2013
National Honor Society, Vice President
Varsity Soccer, Wrestling (Captain), Track & Field
JROTC, Company Commander, Raider Team Commander Superior Junior Cadet, Order of the Purple Heart Award
Favorite Quote: Hakuna Matata ~ Swahili phrase popular in Kenya and Zanzibar
Gage says, “Growing up I have always pushed myself to be the best, but at the same time I wanted to have fun with everything that I did. My quote translates to no worries, and if you know the rest it's also my worry free philosophy. The quote has helped me not to take everything so seriously, to take a step back and cherish every activity and friendship.”
Kenzie Hall, Army
Kenzie Hall knew what it was like to worry about a parent deployed to a combat zone. When she was eleven, her father was deployed to Afghanistan. To help her and her sister refocus their sadness and worry, her parents suggested that during that year, Kenzie and her sister could pursue a big dream they had – acting. The girls both took acting classes and even traveled to Los Angeles for auditions. Kenzie was delighted to redirect her energy and she thought other military kids should “live their dream”. From there, Bratpack 11 was born – granting big dream wishes to military kids who had a parent injured or killed in combat.
Kenzie has developed Bratpack 11 for the past five years, recruiting volunteers, producing a 3-minute public service announcement and making cold calls to prospective donors (she said this is the hardest part, donors do not always take her seriously due to her young age). So far, this budding charity has granted a few dream wishes – the first was a five day all-expenses trip to Disneyland to a gold star family who lost their father in combat and arranging for a young Spiderman superfan (and son of a wounded warrior) to see the Broadway production of Superman and go up on stage to meet the actors.
Kenzie’s efforts attracted the attention of a national charity, The Boot Campaign. She was invited to move BratPack11 to be a featured program under The Boot Campaign umbrella in December 2013. In March 2014, BratPack 11 granted a wish to a gold star Texas family with a surprise trip to Los Angeles to meet their favorite stars. Two young sisters toured several studios and met celebrities including their favorite Disney star, Debbie Ryan. Debbie surprised them during a studio tour and gave them a behind-the-scenes tour. Myra Brandenburg of The Boot Campaign nominated Kenzie and says, “There aren't very many children whose lives are devoted to serving others. . . Kenzie is among a rare few who get it. Life is more than serving yourself. It's about using your gifts and talents creatively for the benefit of others. . .not only is Kenzie giving of herself but she is inspiring others to join her in the process!” Kenzie’s philanthropy work earned her a spot at the distinguished Teens Can Make It Happen Conference hosted by famed marketing entrepreneur and author, Stedman Graham.
Kenzie has moved 10 times, so far. At one point, she attended three schools in one year. “I think most kids who are not in the military are not used to adapting to change” she says, “If not for my dad’s deployments I would never had started a non-profit to help military kids. I have seen a lot of the world and what it has to offer. I take those lessons and use them to create my own success.” As she looks to her future, Kenzie would like to continue growing BratPack 11 (she’s currently designing a T-shirt line) and plans to start an online blog where military kids can find support or just chat with other military kids. She will continue working on these goals, all while pursuing her first love, acting.
Kenzie is the daughter of Jason and Aerica Hall and has a younger sister, Madison. Her father, Jason, is a Captain stationed with the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Southern California. She comes from a long line of military service including two great grandfathers who served in the Navy—both served in WWII and one retired from the Navy. Her grandfather served in the Air Force, as well as an uncle and great uncle.
BratPack 11, founder
Assoc. Student Body: Committee for Blood Drives
Brat Pack Club, founder, high school club supporting military families, including building a home for a wounded Veteran
Favorite Quote: If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.~ Anita Roddick
Kenzie shares, “This quote has inspired me as a teenager. The only thing you need to have to be able to make an impact is passion for what you want to change or do. I may be small, but I have a big appetite for success, just like that mosquito!”
Juanita Lindsay Collins, Coast Guard
Juanita was nominated by Courtney Ward, her Guidance Counselor at the Exploring Careers and Education in Leadership (EXCEL) magnet program for Largo High School. Ms. Ward says Juanita is “a young woman of talent, character, and integrity who maintains a 4.5 cumulative weighted GPA and is ranked number 5 out of 305 seniors.” Ward shares that Juanita is constantly working to be “the best version of herself that she can be.”
Juanita is not only an accomplished scholar but active in her school and community. Allison Gorrell, Executive Director of the Ryan Nece Foundation says, “Juanita has achieved success in the classroom all while completing over 300 hours of volunteer service, acting as president of both her junior and senior class, as well as National Honor Society, playing four years of varsity volleyball, and holding various leadership positions in clubs and service organizations.”
Juanita says military kids see firsthand how hard service members work to keep our country safe. “I have extended family in different branches. Civilian kids don’t necessarily understand the sacrifice for them to be home and kept safe, so it makes me grateful” she says.
Juanita is the eldest of four children of Ricky and Tafaoga (“Tafa”) Collins. Mr. Collins is a security guard and Mrs. Collins is the Assistant Personnel Officer at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater. Juanita has one brother, Joshua (16), and two sisters, Jazmin-Moli (14) and Juliah, (12). Juanita’s aunt is active duty Air Force, and her uncle is medically retired from the Army with two tours in Afghanistan. Her perfect day would be spending time with her grandparents in Samoa, immersed in her roots and culture, together enjoying all the island gifts of beautiful beaches, swimming, and tropical fruits and flowers.
This fall, Juanita will begin courses to become a pediatrician. Although not committed to a school yet, she has so far been accepted to Stetson University, University of South Florida in Tampa and Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Key Club projects with Relay for Life, Food bank, Ronald McDonald House & Salvation Army holiday collection
Sunday school teacher for pre-school children
2013 Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for humanitarian and volunteer work
Ryan Nece Foundation: Traveled to the Dominican Republic & help lay cement floors in dirt floor homes, distributed hygiene supplies to schools
Suncoast Hospice: bake cookies and craft time with residents
Senior Class President
Junior Class President
Varsity Volleyball, Captain, MVP
Vocalistics Acapella Group
Favorite Quote: Getting lost will help you find yourself. ~ Holstee Manifesto
Juanita says, “My best friend gave me this quote for Christmas. This quote inspired me because it helped me remember that even when you don't know the way you're going, or you feel down, you will eventually find yourself and your calling; why you were put on this earth. Keep moving forward no matter what, God and the path you're on will lead you to finding yourself.”
Michael-Logan Burke Jordan, Marine Corps
Michael-Logan was diagnosed at the age of 3 with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which limits his mobility and requires intense medical treatment including physical therapy and surgeries. At age five, Michael-Logan, decided that volunteering and helping others in need would be the best medicine for his disease.
Michael-Logan is an Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation and President of his own charity, The Logan's Heroes Foundation, which promotes the spirit of volunteerism and helps wounded warriors, first responders, and disadvantaged children. He plans to take his Foundation globally to help as many people as possible. His professional goal is to become a Pediatric Rheumatologist and help find a cure. Due to the shortage of Pediatric Rheumatologists across the country, especially within the DOD, “I want to focus my practice within Military Treatment Facilities. Our military kids deserve the best and easily accessible medical care!” says Michael-Logan. He also has a great interest in our nation’s legislative process and says he could see himself running for public office later in life.
Manuel Loya, CEO of the Arthritis Foundation-Pacific Rim shares “Michael-Logan has such a natural influence for motivating and inspiring other children struggling with arthritis.” He writes that Michael-Logan has the ease and dignity to address a room of 50 high profile donors as comfortably as he addresses lawmakers, advocating for legislation for improved arthritis research funding and accessible treatments. In 2013, during the Arthritis Summit in Washington, DC, Michael-Logan addressed Congress and counts that as a cherished memory.
Michael-Logan is the eldest child of ReBecca and Christopher Jordan. Mrs. Jordan is a nurse, children’s book author, and the Director of Blue Star Families Hawaii Chapter. She was selected AFI MCB Hawaii Spouse of the Year for 2013 and 2014. MSgt. Jordan is the Operation Chief at MCB Hawaii. Michael-Logan has two younger siblings, his brother, Jaxson (8) and his sister, Sophia (5). He comes from a long line of proud military service. His uncle and great-grandfather both served in the Army. His grandfather and two great-uncles are retired from the USAF with over 20 years each.
Logan’s Heroes Foundation, founder
Arthritis Foundation Ambassador
Toys for Tots
Operation Homefront, video production, Color Vibe run
Blue Star Families, chaired MilKidz Club
USO, Armed Services YMCA
Hawaiian Foster Families, collects donations and distribution to youth in foster/group homes
Hawaii Meth Project, Teen Advisory Council
3.9 GPA, Science and Math tutor
Freshman Class President
Freshman Homecoming Court
Favorite Quote: The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, YOU will fill the world with hope, YOU will fill yourself with hope. ~ Barack Obama
Michael-Logan says, “On the days that my disease is at its worst and I start to feel hopeless, I remember the words of our President and I get up and do something. When you give of yourself to your community, you fill the world and yourself with hope.”
Ryan Patrick Curtin, Navy
Ryan has a 99+% average while carrying a full load of Advanced Placement Classes and Dual-Credit College Courses. He maintains this high level of achievement despite having moved nine times since 1996 and missing the first month of his senior year of high school because he was recuperating from surgery. In August 2013, Ryan had a lifelong birth defect remedied through a major chest operation. He recovered faster than expected and was able to rejoin his teammates on the soccer field.
Ryan was “Plank Owner” and President of both the DOD/Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Youth Ambassador Program and the Flour Bluff High School Student-to-Student Program. He was also recently awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Gold) for amassing over 500 volunteer hours in a single year. Family friend Ali Ghaffari writes, “The greatest word in Ryan’s vocabulary is service. Service is what the military is about, and service is what really separates Ryan from every other child I’ve met.” In Boy Scouts, Ryan’s Eagle Scout Project was managing 57 Marine, Navy, BSA and civilian volunteers in constructing a staircase and deck, as well as a major landscape upgrade and addition for Marine Aviation Training Support Group TWENTY TWO. Dabney Kern, Former Sr. Director for Homeland Security and Assistant Scoutmaster, shares that Ryan serves without expectation of recognition or fanfare, “Ryan asked what needed to be done. He helped the younger scouts and pitched in. He took on a service-oriented approach and found he enjoyed the leadership challenges.”
Ryan is the eldest son of Lisa and Rex Curtin. Mrs. Curtin was the Interim Director of the Corpus Christi Office of the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society until stepping down in February to prepare for a pending family PCS move, this time to Northern Virginia. Captain Curtin is the Commanding Officer (Commodore) of Training Air Wing FOUR, the Chief of Naval Air Training’s Multi-Engine Training Wing, based at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Ryan has two younger brothers, Michael (16) and Sean (11). Military service is a family tradition. Ryan will be the fourth generation of military service dating back to his great grandfather who served in the Army and was a Japanese Prisoner-of-War (POW). Ryan’s uncle served in the Army as an Apache helicopter pilot and is now with the FBI in Virginia.
Ryan says the best part of being a military family is the advantage of meeting new people from all over the country because he has made many great friends that he never would have met without the frequent moves. Ryan’s perfect day is sleeping in late, spending the day at the beach with friends, and ending with a game of pick-up soccer. “I love to be outside whenever the weather is nice!” says Ryan. Ryan has been offered a Trustee Scholarship to Trinity University and has been accepted to Northeastern University in Boston. While he is undecided where he will attend, he plans to pursue a medical career in the Navy as a Flight Surgeon or a Dive Medical Officer.
BSA Eagle Scout
Navy Marine Corps Relief Soc. Client Services Assistant & Thrift Store volunteer
Blue Star Families volunteer
United Christian Ministries Food Bank volunteer
Varsity Soccer, grade 10-12, Academic All-District
Varsity Cross Country, grade 10
Navy Youth Soccer Coach
National Honor Society
Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society)
Favorite Quote: Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. ~ Joshua J. Marine
Ryan says, “Being a military kid is full of challenges, but on the other end of all of those challenges is the great feeling of knowing that you have made sacrifices for your country, however big or small those sacrifices may have been.”
Mark Newberry, Air Force
Mark moved for the 10th time, recently from Virginia to Washington state, the summer before his senior year. He carries a 4.25 GPA with a course load of Advanced Placement statistics, anatomy, physiology, European history and literature. Mark earned three varsity letters in track and cross country and his team placed third at the state championship. He earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout at just 13 years old. Mark teaches Sunday school, visits shut-ins every other weekend and volunteers at the local VA thrift store and elderly village. His school principal, John McSmith wrote, "Mark is a person of character who always does the right thing. He is thoughtful and considerate to everyone, willing to help and work for the success of the team."
The Newberry family has military roots extending back to the Civil War. The most recent generations include Mark's father, Brian, who is the Wing Commander at Fairchild Air Force Base. Mark's uncle is also a Colonel in the Air Force currently serving at the Pentagon. Mark's grandfather retired from the Air Force with 20 years of service. Mark's mother, Jill, is a registered nurse.
Mark attributes his adaptive nature and love of travel to his many moves. "With ten moves in 18 years, I have either lived in or seen almost every state. Having moved 3,000 miles three separate times has given me the opportunity to see some amazing sights. I have been able to meet many great people all over the country."
He participated in the Duke University TIP Program for clinical psychology and shadowed a surgeon for 20 hours for his senior honors project, all in pursuit of a career in medicine. Mark will study Pre-Med and has been accepted to the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Michigan and Baylor University and awaiting to hear back from Air Force ROTC and a few other universities.
Mark enjoys playing sports and spending time outdoors -a perfect activity is a pick-up game of basketball under blue skies and sunshine. He is the son of Jill and Brian Newberry. Mark has a younger brother, Matthew.
Awarded Boy Scout Eagle Rank, age 13
Sunday School teacher
Twice monthly visits homebound seniors
VA thrift store
Volunteers at local Elderly Village with holiday celebrations and dinners
Junior Class Treasurer
Key Club Treasurer
National Honor Society
Varsity cross country, Varsity track
Favorite Quote: Mark says, "I remind myself of this quote before every race, in order to focus on my goal. As a fellow distance runner, I have idolized Steve Prefontaine because of his success as a record holder and Olympian. I have strived to carry on his same work ethic."
To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift. ~ Steve Prefontaine
Nicole Marie Daly, Army
Nicole, age 17, has moved 9 times and so far, attended 3 high schools. Despite these constant changes, Nicole is ranked at the top of her class with a 4.7 GPA, a weighted score based on her coursework of Honors and Advanced Placement classes. She has earned varsity letters in both cross country and track and runs half-marathons with her father.
She served as the Military Child Education Representative for Fort Lee on a panel determining ways to help military children transition between schools. Nicole volunteers weekly with the Fort Lee Thrift Shop and at events to support the College Scholarship Fund for the Fort Lee Area Spouse's Club. In addition, she spent over 150 hours last year on weekends visiting National Guard and Reserve units to teach soldiers and dependents about their education benefits. Nicole was nominated by her school counselor, Tara Bauman-Seely, who wrote, "She is truly an example of a well-rounded student and immediately embraced her new environment and involved herself with extra-curricular activities. She certainly stands out to me as a role model for military students!"
Nicole's father, Edward, is a West Point graduate and Chief of Ordnance and Commandant of the Ordnance Center and School at Fort Lee, VA . Her mother, Cathy, is also a West Point graduate and a former Quartermaster Officer. Nicole's great-grandfather served in WWII.
Growing up in a military family "created resiliency because every time we move, I have to constantly prove myself as an individual and my capabilities" Nicole explains. Her favorite part of this lifestyle is the diversity. "The ability to engage with so many different cultures, ways of life, and personalities is invaluable and something I cherish every day. It truly opens the mind at such young ages, which I believe is the key to human harmony."
While still open-minded about careers, Nicole is leaning toward the medical field. "I think the impact that doctors are able to have on patients' lives is amazing. Having said that, the possibilities are endless!"
Nicole's favorite thing to do is spend time with her family, especially cheering together for the NY Yankees or her brothers at their baseball games. She is the eldest child of Cathy and Edward Daly. She has two younger brothers, Connor and Mitchell.
Fort Lee Thrift Shop
Fort Lee Spouse Club
Family Readiness Groups
Freshman Class President, Citizenship Award
Military Child Education Representative, Fort Lee
Model United Nations
National Honor Society
Varsity letters in cross country & track
Favorite Quote: Nicole says, "I have this quote posted as my screensaver and throughout my room. It is a continual reminder every day of how precious life is, and how I should strive to make the best of it."
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. ~ Oscar Wilde
Amanda Wimmersberg, Coast Guard
Amanda is a gifted and talented senior with a 4.0 GPA and is captain of the varsity soccer team and track team. She is a member of the Peer Leadership program which helps freshman acclimate to their new school by providing an older student to talk to about problems and make sure they aren't getting bullied. Amanda was the Teen Panel member of the Military Family Action Planning Committee and volunteers with her soccer team, student council and National Honor Society to organize beach cleanups and fundraisers.
She conducts senior citizen home visits with her church youth group. Amanda is certified in Red Cross CPR and First Aid and works as a lifeguard at the local community college. Amanda was nominated by her school counselor, Kelly Reising, who wrote, "Frequent moves have always been a part of her life and so Amanda adapted quickly to her new environment. From the beginning, it was clear that Amanda was resilient, hard-working and intelligent."
Amanda's mother, Christina, is a recently retired Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander. Her father, Richard is a Commander with the USCG Force Readiness Command- Detached Duty Navy Warfare Development Command in Norfolk, VA. Amanda's maternal grandparents both served in the Army. Her grandmother was a nurse. Her grandfather was killed in action in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Air Medal.
Amanda has lived in nine different states and says, "I like the adventure. My favorite advantage of being a military kid is the ability to move everywhere and experience so many different places."
This fall, Amanda will begin studies at the University of Central Florida, where she aspires to be a physical therapist. She says "I love helping people and encouraging them to be active. I grew up playing sports, and whenever I was hurt my athletic trainer would help me get back on the field. I would love to do the same and help others get back to what they love doing most."
Amanda enjoys spending time with family and friends trying new things. She has parasailing, skydiving and swimming with sharks on her list of things to try. She is the eldest daughter of Christina and Richard Schultz and has two younger brothers, Tyler and Jack.
Fundraisers for breast cancer research
Fundraisers for epilepsy cure & research
Hurricane Sandy food & clothing drive
Red Cross Blood Drive
Sr. citizen home visits
CPR & First Aid Certified
Military Family Action Planning Committee, Teen Panel
National Honor Society
Varsity soccer, Varsity track
Favorite Quote: Amanda says "I read this every day because it helps me understand no matter where I am in life, I should never take anything for granted."
The secret to being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most out of every day. ~Anonymous
Abigail MaryRose Perdew, Marine Corps
Abigail ("Abi") is student council president and captain of the cross country team and track and field team. She carries a 4.1 GPA as a full International Baccalaureate (IB) senior with advanced placement courses in economics, calculus, European history and physics. She has volunteered over 200 hours this year including math tutoring. As president of Student 2 Student, she has grown the outreach of this group which helps new students acclimate to their new school and host country's culture. Linda Berger, the IB Coordinator for Bahrain School, wrote, "In my nearly thirty years as a secondary school educator, I regard Abigail as one of my top students. She is intelligent, talented, highly motivated and positive."
Abi has a proud history of military service on both sides of her family. Her mother, Jessica, is a former Marine who now works in accounting. Her father, Jason, is a Lieutenant Colonel with Marine Corps Forces Central Command. Abi's paternal grandfather served in the Air Force and three grand-uncles served in the Marine Corps, including one West Point graduate. Abi's maternal great-grandfathers both served, one in the Air Force and the other served in the Navy as a Seabee during WWII. And her mother's uncle served in the Air Force.
Seeing the world is Abi's favorite part of being part of a military family. She says, "I've seen and learned things that many kids never will. Traveling has given me an open mind towards new cultures and people; I'm willing to try anything once. I believe that moving around has made me the optimist and friendly person that I am today."
Abi has earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy and plans to study development economics and Arabic. She would like to work as an attaché or Foreign Area Officer and in the long term, as a diplomat or run for public office. Somewhere in there, she would also enjoy teaching elementary students.
Abi enjoys spending time with family and friends, especially singing and rooting for their favorite X Factor contestants. Abi is the daughter of Jessica and Jason Perdew. Abi has two older siblings, William and Ashley and two younger brothers, Ethan and Andrew.
Student to Student, President
Sunday School teacher
Love 146, Vice President
Varsity cross country team, Captain
Varsity track & field team, Captain
Junior Class Secretary
Student Council President
FFA, Greenhand President
National Creed Speaking Award
National Honor Society
Favorite Quote: Abi says, " I know the importance of doing what's right and sticking to what you believe. It can be difficult sometimes, but I try to stand up for what I believe in, even if it means rejecting the majority. It doesn't matter what other people think of me; it only matters what I think of myself. I would rather maintain my integrity and do what is right, than follow the crowd."
Don't be afraid to stand for what you believe in, even if that means standing alone. ~ Unknown
Alexander Ray Burch, Navy
Born at 25 weeks and 1.5 pounds, Alexander Ray Burch was not expected to survive the night. He pulled through but at age four, doctors discovered he was hearing impaired and would continue to lose his hearing with age. Instead of limiting him, Alexander excels in doing for others. He said, "I really enjoy volunteering a lot because at the end of the day I know I have made a difference, I made today count."
While living in Guam, then nine-year old Alexander collected food and water and delivered supplies to villagers who lost their homes in a devastating typhoon. Since then, he has grown into an honors student and chess enthusiast who immerses himself in volunteering. This year, he volunteered over 400 hours which included producing a video for an Anti-Bullying Campaign. He is a member of the golf team and on the homecoming court. Dawn Thompson, Director of Youth Programs at Grand Forks Air Force Base, wrote, "There is nothing he will not do and 'no' does not appear to be in his vocabulary. He is an inspiration for all kids and many adults."
Alexander's father, David, is a retired Navy Chief who served 24 years including assignments in Naples, Iceland and Guam. He currently works with the FAA. His mother, Joanne, is a Training & Curriculum Specialist for Child and Youth Programs at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Navy service is a family tradition. Alexander's great grandfather was a retired Commander, earning a bronze star for service in WWII and Korea. His great uncle was a retired Chief Warrant Officer.
Alexander says the best part of being a part of a military family is the privilege to have lived around the world. "I have experienced white outs in Iceland, earthquakes, typhoons and super typhoons. . .I have met some amazing people of all different cultures and religions, tasted different foods and visited palaces and castles. I am so proud of my dad and so thankful to the US Navy for all the opportunities given to us."
While his hearing disability prevents Alexander from pursuing his dream of a Navy career, he plans to work toward a career in government supporting the military. He is especially interested in a career in business, accounting or entrepreneurship and has been accepted to the University of North Dakota.
Alexander is a voracious reader, loves watching scary movies and his favorite food is sushi. He enjoys playing on the computer and spending time with his new puppy, Finley, and three cats. Alexander is the eldest child of Joanne and David Burch. Alexander has a younger sister, Olivia.
Torch Club Food Drive
GFAFB Movie Theatre, Volunteer Asst. Manager
Youth of the Year, Grand Forks AFB (2011-12)
Youth of the Year, Grand Forks AFB (2012-13)
Finalist, Youth of the Year, State of ND (2013)
National Society of High School Scholars
4-H Club, Vice President & Ambassador
Chess Club, Golf Club
Odyssey of the Mind
Favorite Quote: Alexander says, "This quote inspires me to work hard, be the best I can and not just think of myself but to see everyone else around me and their needs."
Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishment. The present is theirs, the future, for which I have really worked, is mine. ~ Nikola Tesla
Chelsea Rutherford, Air Force
Chelsea Rutherford's mother probably will not be able to attend Chelsea's high school graduation, because mom may be deployed…again! But Chelsea says she understands. With two parents in the military, multiple moves, and attendance at five different schools, Chelsea is accustomed to the life of a military child and tries every day to make it a point to help other military children.
An honor roll student with a 3.6 GPA, Chelsea serves as vice president of the Student to Student Club which focuses on introducing new students from military families to the campus and easing their transition. "Being alone in a new school is very scary," she said. "I get so nervous about that kind of stuff. So we give them a friend, show them around and help them."
When Chelsea isn't studying for her advanced placement classes or volunteering at her high school, she can be found working in the local community where she has clocked more than 179 hours in 2011 volunteering for many wonderful nonprofit organizations. Recently, Chelsea helped collect 140 pounds of toys and school supplies for a children's hospital in Iraq - she organized the collection with the help of her deployed mother via Skype.
This fall, Chelsea will use the skills honed through her membership in the Society of Leadership and Success, as well as the National Society of High School Scholars, to attend the local community college. There she will work toward her teaching degree and plans to transfer to Florida State in 2013.
"That has been my dream forever," she said. "I love kids so much and teaching them in the early years is the most effective. I want to be around them and influence them."
Amelia McConnell, Army
Like many military children, Amelia McConnell has had her share of challenges. The youngest of six children, she has moved nine times; her father has deployed to the front lines three times.
Amelia has learned to made friends and adjust quickly to new environments. Beginning in 2006, the next few years would bring Amelia and her family their greatest hardship. Soon after her father returned from Iraq he was diagnosed with leukemia. After completing six months of treatments, the disease appeared to be in remission and her father was redeployed to Iraq in 2007. Two years later, Amelia's only brother, Sgt. Andrew McConnell, was killed in Afghanistan.
One year after losing her brother, Amelia's family returned to Pennsylvania from Germany to await her father's homecoming the next month. However, he was deployed to Afghanistan. Amelia describes it as "a very long year. Honestly, we got through it with family and faith. We're a very close family." When her father left for Afghanistan, Amelia said she made it a priority to make life easier for her mother. At her new school, Amelia became a member of several National Honor Societies including German National Honor Society, and was elected vice president of the National Art Honor Society.
Earning seven varsity letters in three different sports, Amelia founded a ski team to raise money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. The team achieved its fundraising goal by skiing for 12 hours in a single day. Annually completing 200+ community service hours, Amelia also organized a Wounded Warrior Project 5K run and soccer game in remembrance of her brother.
She also participates in the annual Relay For Life walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society, a project close to her heart. Weekly, she mentors an 8-year-old boy suffering from leukemia who lives in her neighborhood and attends her church. "He means a lot to me," she said. "And, he's a military kid too."
Amelia plans to study graphic design at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Alena Deveau, Coast Guard
Alena Deveau's family has always considered their Coast Guard life to be an adventure. As the family traversed the United States from one assignment to another, they realized that in a few short years they had visited 49 states, with the hope to visit the last state of North Dakota. "It was really neat; all the experiences we had and the things we got to see," Alena said.
When Alena was in seventh grade, the family faced a challenge that would test their collective strength. Her father, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer and became dependent on chemotherapy. Surgeons removed part of his right lung. Months later he was diagnosed with hip cancer and later he was diagnosed with brain cancer, too.
The family pulled closer together with each diagnosis. "We accepted it with God and kept moving forward," Alena said. "It was definitely a different journey than what we expected, but we are so thankful for the doctors." Her father was hospitalized for nearly three months and Alena's mother spent most of her time by his bedside. Alena began to run the household and care for her 15 year-old younger sister.
Alena kept up the family home, put up and took down the holiday decorations and took her sister to school each day all while she maintained her honor roll status, tutored children at the local grade school, and her rigorous extra-curricular schedule. She was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she served as secretary of the National Honor Society, and she played varsity field hockey.
Additionally, Alena volunteers annually as an organizer of the local Veterans' Day dinner, bringing more of the military tradition and pomp back to the annual feast. "I got to meet a lot of soldiers and veterans, and hear their stories. That's very special to me," she said.
Five years after his diagnosis, Captain Deveau passed away, just months before Alena graduated high school. While working with her father and his physical therapist, Alena became very interested in studying physical therapy. She plans to attend college in Virginia.
Erika Booth, Marine Corps
Erika Booth loved to play softball. In fact, Erika was very active in athletics until she learned that a simple fall had life-threatening implications. Erika was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease which affects her blood. She had to give up sports, is required to have painful monthly kidney checks and takes blood thinning medicine to treat her disease. Because her thinned blood doesn't clot well, her condition must be monitored constantly. She and her family have had to adjust their routines to be extra careful of her activities.
Losing her favorite pastime has allowed Erika the time to help others. She is now a trusted primary caregiver for her 13-year-old autistic brother. "I'm the one who knows best how to work with him, so I can do well in case he needs help." said Erika. She frequently takes her brother to go bowling and to the movies. "I do anything I can to help him succeed in life," she said.
Academically, Erika is ranked first in her class. She serves as junior class President, Vice President of the local Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter, and volunteers as a mentor with the Drug Education for Youth program. She also volunteers with the LINKS children program where she helps military children and families cope with the challenges of military life.
Erika also volunteers for local community organizations and has traveled abroad with the People to People Ambassador program. Erika said she does so many activities because she loves being involved. "I learned from being a military child that being involved is the most important thing. If you're not involved, your military family experience is not going to be a happy one. Deployments, even short ones can be heart-wrenching," she said. "Being involved helps get your mind off of all that."
James Nathaniel “Nate” Richards, Navy
At one point in his life, Nathan Richards' three brothers and father were deployed simultaneously. The second youngest of six kids in a military family, Nate has seen a lot of the military life. To share his wisdom about being a military kid, he started a blog http://natethegreatamilitarybrat.wordpress.com.
Nathan said he started the blog while his brothers and father were deployed to deal with the difficulty of their absence. "It was hard because my brothers took care of me when my dad was gone, and then, everybody was gone," he said. "I wrote the blog so my friends could see what it was like." Nathan has over 80 military kids around the country who follow his blog.
In between football, soccer, and baseball practices, Nathan leads the anti-bully committee at his school which meets once a week to discuss ways to end bullying in the school. He describes it as one of the most important things he does all week. "It's important because someone can only make you feel bad if you give them permission. We're trying to get kids to stand up for themselves and stop kids who are bullies," he said.
In the community Nathan volunteers at the USO. He wrapped hundreds of stockings to send to troops in Afghanistan Nate spent over 200 hours last year collecting Christmas toys for children in need. When parents arrived at the local event to pick out Christmas gifts for their children, he took care of the children so that each parent could more easily participate in the festivities. "I like being a military kid because I get to help other military kids anywhere I go," he said.
Nicole Goetz, Air Force
Through the tough transitions of moving from base to base, Nicole also had to face her father being deployed multiple times. Instead of moping about her father being gone Nicole began volunteering at the local youth center, church, veterans and nursing homes, and joined a variety of clubs in her high schools. An exceptional student and leader she organized 21 local schools to create and send hundreds of homemade Christmas cards, cookies, and care packages overseas to deployed troops.
Kyle Hoeye, Army
Kyle is committed to helping military families. As a member of Key Club he orchestrated Operation Military Kids Hero Packs and wrote hundreds of letters to local military children, thanking them for their services.
While his father was on his third deployment, Kyle became one of two teens in Arizona who is certified to teach military kids on how to use advance technology through the 4H program. Kyle also focuses on teaching the non-military families about the challenges military families, especially children, face each day.
Margaret Rochon, Coast Guard
Accustomed to being the new kid in school and known as a military brat, Margaret joined Student to Student Ambassadors, a group which helps military kids transition to new schools.
Margaret could identify with the stress of a parent's wartime service and understood how combat injuries could impact a family. Margaret's senior project was to organize a seminar about the stress wartime deployment had on families and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on a service member and the family. She organized curriculum and a panel of six nationally known experts, including a retired major general. Her presentation was so successful, it was taped and now is a part of the annual teacher training for all staff in that county.
Taylor Dahl-Sims, Marine Corps
While Taylor's stepfather was away on his fifth deployment, Taylor helped her mom during her pregnancy and delivery. Her new sibling was dropped during delivery and required additional care. When the family came home, the found their home was flooded. Taylor helped her mother with the newborn medical care and the extensive cleanup of their home. Taylor was inspired to create the non-profit organization, North Star Group which hosts baby showers on base and provides pampering for pregnant spouses whose husbands are deployed.
When Taylor's stepfather returned from deployment, he had a traumatic brain injury caused by an improvised explosive device, (IED). Taylor stepped up again to help her family as they made adjustment to this new life-altering situation. Taylor exemplifies resiliency and leadership by meeting these challenges head on and finding ways to use her experience to help others.
Melissa Howland, Navy
Instead of the basketball court each Sunday you will find Melissa volunteering at her local hospital's maternity ward. She feels it's the least she can do after doctors saved her life.
While her father was deployed, Melissa was diagnosed with a blood disorder that causes her immune system to attack the platelets in her blood. Without platelets, her blood will not clot and could cause her to bleed to death. Due to her new condition, Melissa had to give up the sports she loved best, basketball and running, to restrict her exposure to injury.
Throughout her diagnosis, Melissa dedicated her time to her rigorous academic course load of Advanced Placement classes and community service. In 2010, Melissa spent 498 hours volunteering with 12 different causes including tutoring, teaching at her local church, town clean-ups as well as volunteering with organization such as the Special Olympics.
Willie Banks, Army
Willie Banks is a military child of a dual service family, Major Willie Banks and Chief Warrant Officer, Felicia Banks. When Willie's mother was pregnant with him, his father was diagnosed with colon cancer. When Willie was four and his sister just an infant, Major Banks passed away.
Willie is a leader at school, in the sports field and at home. After his father's death, Willie's mother was deployed to Iraq. Willie was determined to excel and care for his younger sister so as not to cause worry for his mother. At just 10 years old, Willie has moved 5 times.
Willie's father, knowing he would not be around to personally impart his paternal wisdom, wrote letters to Willie to be opened every 5 years. Willie opened one of these letters on his 10th birthday and welcomed the guidance of his father. Willie is so inspired by his parents' service, he hopes to apply to the United States Military Academy, West Point and continue his family's tradition of service to our nation.
Brittany Wallace, Army
Prior to 2007, the hardest part about her father's deployments were saying goodbye and being apart.
During 2007 the Henline-Wallace family received a phone call that their father, Staff Sgt. Robert Henline was the lone survivor of a roadside bomb in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Henline suffered burns over 38 percent of his body and his left arm was severely damaged. Brittany and her family were devastated.
At that moment, Brittany took charge. Her mother left her children with extended family in North Carolina to join her husband during his extensive care and recovery at San Antonio's premier medical center, BAMC, the only burn center which treats and provides rehabilitation for combat injuries.
Brittany took over for the caring of her siblings. While they had lots of family help, it was Brittany who was in charge of their care, making sure they stayed in the same routine to help them feel secure and stable.
Sgt. Henline says, it was his daughter "who fought the harder battle". Brittany's family has relocated to San Antonio where her dad has retired. Brittany is a student at the University of Northern Colorado.