By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 – Last night, I attended a ceremony that celebrated five outstanding military children for their contributions, strength and resilience. Leaders honored a military child from each service during the 2011 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year award ceremony in Arlington, Va.
Special guest First Lady Michelle Obama called the children “shining examples.”
“Each of you young people already knows that your families are proud of you. You know that your communities are proud of you. Your parents’ services are proud of you,” the first lady said. “But tonight I want you to know that my husband and I are proud of you -- very proud.”
I’d like to echo the first lady’s comments. In the face of difficult challenges – deployments, illnesses, injuries, household disasters – these children easily could have become discouraged. Instead, they pitched in to help not only their families, but others in their schools and communities as well. And I know there are countless other military children around the world doing the same.
I wanted to share just a few of the reasons these children were selected for this special honor. The Military Children of the Year, along with a brief description of their contributions, include:
-- For the Army, 16-year-old Kyle Hoeye, of Tucson, Ariz., worked to help other military children become more resilient during each of his father’s three deployments. He’s one of only two teens in Arizona certified to teach military kids how to use advanced technology through the 4-H program. He was instrumental in putting together Operation Military Kid’s Hero Packs and handwritten hundreds of letters to local military children, thanking them for their service.
-- For the Navy, 17-year-old Melissa Howland, of Millis, Mass., volunteers in the local hospital’s maternity ward every Sunday. Her father was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and stationed, unaccompanied, in California in 2007 and 2008. Howland keeps her spirits up during her father’s absences by doing community service. In 2010, she donated 498 volunteer hours to 12 causes.
-- For the Air Force, 17-year-old Nicole Goetz, of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., volunteered at the local youth center, the church, veterans and nursing homes and joined a variety of high school clubs. She also organized 21 local schools to create and send hundreds of homemade Christmas cards, cookies and care packages to troops overseas. At home, she helps her 10-year-old brother with his school work. And when he’s feeling down and missing their dad, who is deployed in Afghanistan, she takes him to the movies.
-- For the Marine Corps, 17-year-old Taylor Dahl-Sims, of Oceanside, Calif., helped her mother with her baby brother’s medical care after an injury. Her stepfather returned home from his fifth deployment with a traumatic brain injury and, again, she stepped in to help during his recovery. She also pitches in with her parents’ nonprofit called the North Star Group, helping to host baby showers on base and provide pampering for pregnant spouses whose husbands are deployed.
-- For the Coast Guard, 17-year-old Margaret Rochon, of Jacksonville, N.C., organized a seminar about the stresses of wartime deployment on students and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on families. The seminar was required for all teachers in her county and included a panel of six nationally known experts, including a retired major general. School administrators taped the session and have made it part of the formal annual training for teachers in her county.