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This year's recipients of Military Child of the Year honors have had more than their share of hardships in addition to the moves, deployments and other "normal" challenges of military life.
They all have a strong family foundation — to which they have contributed. They have all, at a young age, made a tremendous difference by supporting their families, as well as their communities.
All said they are honored and humbled to represent their peers, knowing there are so many awesome military children out there.
After the April 5 awards ceremony, I asked what advice they would give other military children about meeting the challenges of military life. Some of their siblings weighed in, too.
"Don't let the deployments and hardships of being a military child stand in the way of accomplishing your goals," said Erika Booth, 17, Marine Corps Child of the Year.
She was diagnosed with lupus about two years ago, but that didn't stop her from traveling internationally and becoming president of her junior class at Southwest High School in Jacksonville, N.C.
"Always be optimistic. If you have a terrible outlook on life, your experiences are going to be terrible," she said.
Chelsea Rutherford, 17, Air Force Child of the Year, advises military children to find activities they love.
"Have a great friend support system. They help you through a lot," said Chelsea, vice president of the Student to Student club at A. Crawford Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, Fla., which helps new students — mainly military kids — get acclimated to the school and feel welcome.
"And Skype," she said. "That's what got me and my mom and [stepfather] Chuck through. He was in Korea for a year, and she was in Iraq for six months."
Coast Guard Child of the Year Alena Deveau of Fairfax, Va., has stepped up to run her household when her mom had to be at her father's bedside after he was hospitalized for surgery related to side effects of cancer treatment.
"Everyone has it in them," Deveau said. "Take it and grow with it. You're unique because you're a military child. It's part of your life and part of your nature."
She advises military children to take advantage of the life and the "adventures" — her family has been to 49 states.
"Just stay really close with your family," added Deveau's 15-year-old sister, Ciana. "When you move around so much, you're going to make really great friends, and keep in touch with them. But you really have your family with you the whole way through. If you are really close to them, anywhere you go, no matter where you go, you always have them."
email@example.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.
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