Select a previous year to view past recipients of the Military Child of the Year® Award.
Sarah Hesterman, Air Force
Sarah Hesterman is a passionate advocate, active global citizen, and dedicated to service. Along with all this, she also manages to maintain a 3.8 GPA while taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses. Leslie Watkins, wife of Brig. Gen. Roger Watkins, sums up Sarah by saying, “(She) is exactly what we hope for in our military children: brave, resilient, persistent, and kind hearted.”
Sarah is the Founder and President of Girl Up Qatar. This club works to promote the rights of women and girls in the Middle East and around the world. Girl Up Qatar is part of the United Nations foundation innovative campaign Girl Up to empower girls. Sarah describes her passion for standing up for these issues, “I want to be an inspiration to those who feel like they cannot speak up against injustice because of their gender, and I want to show others how important their voice is.” She was also selected as one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2014 and a Malala Girl Hero. Sarah has lobbied in Congress for the passage of the Girls Count Act of 2014, as well as speaking on behalf of Girl Up Qatar at the World Innovation Summit for education, where she was the youngest presenter in the history of the summit.
Sarah aspires to one day be a part of United Nations promoting gender equality and to develop her own nonprofit organization that provides access to education and resources for adolescent girls in situations of conflict.
Sarah has a list of other notable accomplishments, including an academic award for her achievement in Formal Arabic, which she speaks proficiently and uses to stay engaged in the local community. She is involved in her school’s environmental club, supporting the Water Bottle Initiative to cut down on plastic bottle usage. She is a member of the Varsity Golf team and was selected for the opening ceremony of the AT&T National Golf Tournament in 2012 honoring wounded warriors. In the summer of 2014, she participated in a service trip to Tanzania to help build the Mkombozi School for Orphans, volunteered at a book drive for a local school in need of supplies, and previously has volunteered at the Knollwood Military Retirement Home in D.C. As her teacher Jan Farmer explains, “Sarah has made the decision to embrace the life that she has been given. She looks at every new experience as an opportunity.” This is echoed in Sarah’s description of the best part of being a military kid, in which she says it is without a doubt how much she has been exposed to the world and different cultures.
Sarah is the only child of Lt. General John W. and Dr. Jennifer Hesterman. Her father is currently active duty Commander with US AIR Forces Central Command stationed in Qatar. He has been serving for 32 years. Her mother is a retired Air Force Colonel with 21 years of service and is currently a professor and academic author. Both of her grandfathers are Vietnam veterans, Colonel John W. Hesterman, Jr. (USAF) and Lloyd Whitnack Jr. (Navy) and her uncle, Colonel Thomas Hesterman, is also currently active duty Air Force.
Girl Up Qatar, Founder and President
Malala Girl Hero, October 2014
Served Holiday meals to troops at Al Udeid
Service Trip to Tanzania to build desks, and donate supplies
BBC’s 100 Women of 2014
Varsity Golf Team
Favorite Quote: “I raise up my voice- not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”- Malala Yousafzai
Sarah says, “I have this quote on my bedroom wall to remind myself every morning that my voice matters when I speak up for girls in disadvantaged situations because, despite the fact their voices matter too, many people are not listening. It reminds me that I have a mission to educate the local and global community about issues girls are facing in developing countries and that I must not let the possibility of pushback scare me from being a strong advocate for my peers.”
Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, Army
Cavan visited a veterans’ home in 2008 and was alarmed that many of those living there did not have socks. This is where the idea for his program, Socks for Vets, began. Cavan’s teacher, Laura Hottel, shares that he cares deeply about recognizing service and the 7,500 veteran’s he has served with this program. “He has always made time, spending a few minutes with each (veteran), to let them know that someone cares about them. The organization speaks volumes toward the humanity that we all say we need and want.” This organization collects socks and other donated items and distributes them to wounded warriors. Cavan was concerned that double amputees would not find socks as useful, so he came up with the idea to make them sock monkeys. Additionally, Cavan advocates for veterans through this program at the state and national levels, promoting events and telling the stories of those he served.
In addition to his Socks for Vets organization, Cavan assists his sister fundraise for her program Heart Hugs, which involves collecting, sterilizing, and distributing compression pillows sized for pediatric heart patients. Cavan helps his sister, who was born with health issues and has undergone multiple open heart-surgeries, work through her medical issues while also struggling with his own lung and skeletal issues. The registrar and instructor of the Shiremanstown Homeschool Group, Jennifer Burke, shares that Cavan faces these trials with great courage and a positive spirit. “When I see Cavan each week, I see a leader, a patriot, an advocate for veterans, and a bright future for our country. He is kind and helps set an example of respect for other students to follow.” Cavan's true colors shine through in other volunteer involvements, including his Pack Goat project, which utilizes goats in carrying packing equipment and other items for wounded warriors that want to hike.
Cavan carries a 97% GPA and is an avid writer. He is involved in The Cove Writing Club and participates in many different essay contests, as well as being the winner of the 2015 Fleet Reserve Association Patriotism Essay Contest and the 2012 Letters about Literature Maryland State Winner. He also enjoys participating in the Shiremanstown Drama Group, Noble Cause Productions at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, The Cove Photography Club, and is very active in 4-H. In fact, his Goat Packing and Socks for Vets projects earned Grand Champion. Cavan hopes to combine his love of wildlife and law enforcement into a profession as a state police officer in Alaska when he is an adult.
Cavan is the oldest child of Army Captain Steven Brewer and Michelle McIntyre-Brewer. His siblings include sister Lorelei (9), his brother Killian (2) and his brother Rory (deceased). Michelle works as a medical and military advocate and educator, and Steven is a medical detachment Commander at Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic. Cavan’s family has a strong history of military service, stretching all the way back to two Revolutionary War veterans, two Civil War Veterans, and a total of 11 ancestors with previous military service.
Socks for Vets, Founder and CEO
4-H Project leader Pack Goat
Heart Hugs Public Spokesperson
Shiremanstown Homeschool Group, performances and activities for seniors
2014 Maryland Governor’s Volunteerism Award
2014 Hero for Kids are Heroes
2011 Hero of the Realm, PA Renaissance Faire
2012 Kohls Cares State Winner
Favorite Quote: “These guys don’t want your pity. They want your empathy. There are 1,700 amputees out there and these guys are not heroes; they are just great patriotic kids who want to serve.” –Stacy Fidler, Mom of a Wounded Warrior Marine CPL Mark Fidler
Cavan says, “Veterans and Wounded Warriors aren’t ‘that guy in a wheelchair’; or a homeless person that no one seems to care about; they are normal people that want the same things we do. When I spend time with them, I feel like my family just gets bigger and bigger.”
Caleb Parsons, Coast Guard
There are many difficulties being a child in a dual military family, many of which Caleb Parsons could tell you about. Currently, both his parents are deployed, leaving him and his three younger siblings to hold down the home front. With the help of his grandparents and family friends, Caleb has managed to juggle caring for his two younger brothers and younger sister with his continued involvement in leadership roles, maintaining high academic standards, and completing his application to the U.S. Military Academy at WestPoint.
Caleb is a senior patrol leader in Boy Scouts of America, and has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. His final project to earn this rank was to lead his troop and revamp a dilapidated trail in a nearby park. He turned this service project of leveling the trail and installing a fence into a weekend camping trip for his troop. He is also extremely active in Air Force JROTC, having reached the highest rank authorized in the program, being named Outstanding Cadet three times, and earning the Daedalian Award for patriotism.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col Alfred W. Harris shares that Cadet Parsons sets high standards, is a natural mentor, and makes teaching a fulfilling profession. “I have seen him incorporate the Air Force core values of ‘integrity first,’ ‘service before self,’ and ‘excellence in all we do’ into his daily routine as a student.” His integrity and work ethic also show in his involvement with the swim team and cross country track team at Kings Fork High School, where he was awarded the Co-Captain Varsity Award, Junior Varsity Award, and Sportsmanship Award. He also completed a week long mission trip to Belize with the Open Door Church Youth Group to provide needed aid to the local population.
Caleb maintains a 4.21 GPA while pursuing Advanced Placement Courses. Scott Graham, a retired Army officer who served for twenty years, including as an engineering mechanics professor at the United States Air Force Academy, describes Caleb as one of the brightest students he has had the pleasure of meeting. “He has the academic, physical, and leadership ability to handle any situation and the drive to develop into a fine leader.” Caleb shares that the best part of being a military kid are the values taught to him by his parents. “I am grateful for the instilment of a strong sense of discipline, most of all.” It is this structure and drive that helps him bond together with his siblings to get through the deployment of both of their parents. He hopes to set an example as a servant leader for his sibling to emulate.
Caleb is the oldest son of Petty Officer 1st Class Ward Douglas and Staff Sergeant Story Marie Parsons. His mother Story is in the Reserves, currently deployed to Quatar, and his father Ward is Maritime Enforcement currently stationed in Opa Locka, Florida. He has two younger brothers Isaac (16), Nathan (14), and younger sister Kyleah (9). Both of Caleb’s grandfathers served in the military, Army and Air Force, and Caleb’s future goal is to serve the country as a Special Forces officer. He has currently received a Presidential Nomination (Service Connected) for West Point Military Academy.
Boy Scouts of America, Senior Patrol Leader
Air Force JROTC, Cadet Colonel
Cross Country Track Co-Captain Varsity Award, Sportsmanship Award
Youth Group at Open Door Church
Favorite Quote: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” – Peter Marshall
Caleb says, “My faith in Christ Jesus is the most important thing to me. My faith has been tested innumerable times and I have often come close to getting off track, but remembering my purpose and the One whom I love and live for always brings focus back into my life.
Christopher-Raul Rodriguez, Marine Corps
Christopher says that if someone were to pick him as their role model; he hopes the trait they admire most is his determination. His nominator, Lejeune High School Counselor Todd Kirby agrees, sharing that Christopher shows a great deal of heart and exerts twice the effort required to make sure he succeeds. “There are few words to describe the admiration I feel for the person that Christopher Rodriguez has become. By all accounts, Christopher’s background could have impaired his future and severely hurt his chances of being successful in life… In the era of a “me” generation, Christopher is clearly more focused on those around him and on the concept that he needs to be successful to honor his parents and improve the world within which he lives.”
Christopher reports that his biological father had alcohol problems and was abusive to the family. His mother made the difficult decision to take him and his siblings out of the home. Living in homeless and women’s shelters was difficult, but Christopher decided to be a positive role model for his younger siblings and promised his mom to become somebody she could be proud of in the future.
Christopher currently maintains a 3.25 GPA while pursuing Advanced Placement courses in Government and Politics. He excels athletically and is the team captain of the Lejeune High School Varsity baseball and soccer teams and the Junior Varsity basketball Team. He was also named to the Coastal Plains 2nd Team All-Conference for baseball and soccer. Along with his commitment to excelling personally on these teams, he also is an assistant coach for student 8-12 years old in the Lejeune Youth baseball, soccer, and basketball. His nominator credits his determination and willingness to work hard with inspiring his teammates and being the lynchpin to successful seasons.
Christopher shares that one benefit of being a military child is that it allows one to have a worldview. This comes from travelling to different countries and states and being friends with people in a variety of places, who have diverse experiences and opinions.
Christopher is active in the LHS’s Buddy Club, which is a Project Unify organization that aims to establish bonds between students with and without special needs by hosting trips and activities. AVID Coordinator and teacher Samantha Kay shares that Chris is able to be disciplined in his pursuit for success while also being supportive and caring to those with whom he interacts. “He is a young man who will always give back to the community and help those in need; he is the kind of person this country needs more of.” In addition to his time with the Buddy Club and being a coach for youth sports, he also spends time volunteering for the Special Olympics program. He was also nominated and selected to represent Lejeune High School at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.
Christopher-Raul is the oldest child of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jermaine Smith and Griscelda Smith. He has one sister, Jazzlyn-Luz (14) and one brother Kilyn-Miguel (12). Griscelda is an on base family childcare provider, and Jermaine is a Gunnery Sergeant at Camp Lejeune. Chris’ future aspiration is to pursue a degree in Kinesiology and become an athletic trainer.
Lejeune Youth Sports Assistant Coach
Lejeune High School Buddy Club
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards LHS Representative
LHS Varsity Baseball Team Captain
LHS Varsity Soccer Team Captain
Favorite Quote: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” – Babe Ruth
Christopher-Raul says, “I never let fear of failure prevent me from excelling in many things I never thought possible. Achieving high grades, making new friends in a completely unfamiliar environment that was thousands of miles away from home are all things I never would have accomplished if I had let fear stop me.”
Zachary Parsons, National Guard
Zachary is an active leader in his community, an impressive example of resiliency, and dedicated to service. He shares that his life was dramatically changed when his dad deployed and was injured. “When the main figure leaves your household there is a spiral of things to deal with. My dad was head of household, so when he left there were so many things left to do on the farm, as well as keep our life together. Dealing with that empty space is tough.” Zachary has continued to uphold a 3.85 GPA and multiple leadership positions while adjusting to these new roles.
Zachary is an active member of 4-H both at the local and state level. He is currently President of the Johnson County Council, West Central representative for Missouri State Council and the National 4-H Congress delegate from Missouri. He also competes in public speaking events in 4-H and as a member of the Sacred Heart Speech & Debate Team. He is an active member of the Boys and Girls Club of Whiteman Air Force Base, having served as president, vice president, and secretary of the organization. He serves as a junior deacon for the Jacoby Chapel Presbyterian Church.
Zachary supports children of deployed military on the Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council. This council allows him to advocate for support of military kids with nonprofits, legislature, and the public. By sharing his experience of his dad being away for training, deployment, and injury. Zachary is able to relate to a large number of military children. “Our military puts their lives on the line for our way of life, but the kids do their service too. The military child takes on a lot of responsibility.” He also volunteers with 4-H as a camp counselor; with Project Smile, making tie blankets for sick children admitted to the local emergency room; Hero Packs, which supplies backpacks with writing supplies to children of deployed service members; and is a Salvation Army bell ringer. He supports the Missouri United Way as a fundraiser and volunteers by bringing by farm animals for day events at the Missouri Veterans Home. Zach has also earned a congressional award for his work with Soles4Souls by collecting and cleaning gently used shoes from the community so they can be distributed to those in need. He has also received the Prudential Award for working with a Joplin, Missouri club when their town was devastated by a tornado.
Zachary is the youngest son of Army Sergeant 1st Class Jason and Debbie Parsons. His father is currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood. He has four older siblings, Dianne Gower (31), married to Simon Gower; Taylar McDonald (24) married to Anthony McDonald; Shaun Roach (26) and his wife Lindsey; and Matthew (deceased). Zachary’s sister Taylar is active duty Army, and served in Iraq, and his brother Shaun is in the Air Force currently serving in Guam. Additionally, both of his grandfathers and two of his uncles have also served.
4-H Camp Counselor
Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council
Project Connect- pack food to be shipped to Harvesters
Missouri Veterans Home
Missouri United Way Fundraisers
4-H State Council, West Central Rep
4-H National Council, Missouri Rep
Sacred Heart Speech and Debate Team
Whiteman Youth of the Year
Missouri Military Youth of the Year
Favorite Quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
Zach says, “I believe that this quote applies greatly to life as a whole. From the day you are born, you are always learning and changing. You create yourself through your various endeavors in life. You do not find who you are; but create who you are.”
Emily Kliewer, Navy
Emily was nominated by John Magrino, Dr. Phillips High School (DPHS) Administrative Dean and previous Athletic Director. John shares that, “Over the last 15 years… I have never met a student quite like Emily Kliewer and I am not speaking about her accomplishments nor her accolades, which could fill pages. Emily’s character is impeccable and without question, her greatest quality.” Emily continues to be a supportive force in her community and family, as she also manages the additional challenges of her mom’s diagnosis with Ehlers-Danls syndrome.
Emily is on track to graduate as the valedictorian of her class, obtaining a 4.92 GPA while taking courses in DPHS Center for International Studies, OCPS Talented and Gifted, Advanced Placement (AP) Classes, and honors courses. These academic achievement have also made her a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. Deborah Wasylik, Emily’s AP Environmental Science Teacher, shares that she is a dedicated student who approaches every challenge with gusto. “She is one of those rare students who will passionately pursue excellence no matter how high the ‘bar ’is raised.” She balances these challenging academic accomplishments with equally stunning athletic accolades.
Emily is a competitive swimmer, and has been since she was just four years old and attending preschool. She is currently the Dr. Phillips High School Swimming and Diving Team Captain, a four time school record holder, a three time NISCA All American Swimmer, and has placed in multiple events at the Florida State and Regional levels. She also competes on the DPHS Water Polo Team, and the USA Swimming Year Round Club Senior Team and the USA Water Polo Year Round Club. In her spare time she is active in honor societies in her school, including the Science and Spanish Honor Societies, and was named CIS World History and AP Environmental Science Student of the Year.
Emily uses her talents to volunteer with the Special Olympics as a Swimming Instructor, Volunteer Coach, and Hugger. This experience also inspired her to become active with Peer on Peer Mentoring, where she is an Assistant Teacher and Friend to special needs children. She also participates in the Give Kids the World event, which is when terminally or chronically ill children come to vacation at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Emily shares that these volunteer experiences, as well as being able to give back with the Navy Marine Corp Relief Society, are some of her proudest achievements.
Emily is the youngest daughter of Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Kyle and Cynthia Kliewer. Her older sisters are Kaitlyn (23) currently earning her PhD in Civic Engineering at Princeton and Nicole (21) who will graduate Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University. Her father is a Lieutenant Commander (Ret) in the United States Navy. Her family also has an impressive history of service, dating back to her great-grandfather who served the Navy for 25 years, including through WWII. Both of her grandfathers served in the Navy, as well as three uncles and five cousins serving in different branches.
Navy Marine Corp Relief Society
Special Olympics Swimming Instructor and Volunteer Coach
Peer on Peer Mentoring
Give Kids the World event Volunteer
National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist
William C. Spoone Scholar Athlete of the Year
USA Swimming Scholastic All American
National Honor Society
Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society
Favorite Quote: “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou
Emily says, “It is important to spread positivity and be nice to anyone and everyone. If you are nice to someone else, it starts the chain to spread kindness to a greater number of people-even to the point that it may come back around. Even more important, that bit of niceness may make someone’s day.”
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.