They’ve taken up causes ranging from bullying to youth mental health to wounded veteran support and veteran appreciation.
And some of this year’s recipients of Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year awards — ages 14 to 17, representing each branch of service — have faced personal challenges outside of the “normal” military lifestyle, complicated by deployments and frequent moves.
The winner of this year’s Army award is a daughter who took care of her younger brother and sister — and her parents — when her father’s war injuries put her family in crisis. She exemplifies the sacrifices too many military children make as a result of their parents’ service.
There were nearly 400 nominees in this year’s competition, which marked the 10th anniversary of the awards recognizing the positive impact children have made on their military families, their schools and their communities. Six winners represent the armed forces branch in which their parent currently served, or has served — Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and National Guard. These winners were selected by a panel of volunteer judges in the military support community:
Army: Rebekah Paxton
Coast Guard: Roark Corson
National Guard: Aaron Hall
Navy: Isabelle Richards
Marine Corps: Joshua Frawley
The seventh award, the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, is chosen and presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. This year, that award goes to Shelby Barber, a 17-year-old senior at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. She’s the daughter of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Barber and Elizabeth Barber, and she’s developing a medical device that combines features of two other devices to aid anyone suffering from severe allergies. She’s an allergy patient herself.
Children in elementary schools are her target audience, she said, because she wants them to feel safe using lifesaving equipment, so they can use it on their own if they need to.
The winners have traveled to Washington, D.C., to be recognized by senior leaders of each branch of service Thursday at an Operation Homefront gala. They each will receive $10,000, a laptop and other gifts.
“These seven award recipients are truly exceptional young people who have achieved much at such a young age in terms of academic achievement and service to others,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. John I. Pray Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “They are remarkable representatives of a larger community of extraordinary military kids.”
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.