Military children make up a very special part of our nation's population. Although young, these brave sons and daughters stand in steadfast support of their military parents. To honor their unique contributions and sacrifices on behalf of our country, each April is designated the Month of the Military Child.
Ten-year-old Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, defines resilience. She is the daughter of...
Christian Fagala of Quantico, Virginia, likes to play dodge ball, but he confronted head-on an enemy that...
Jeffrey Burds of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was 9 years old when his mother succumbed to colon cancer...
Madeleine Morlino of Moorestown, New Jersey, was adopted from China when she was 11 months old...
John "Trip" Landon III said that above all of the traits for which someone would choose him as a role model...
Keegan Fike of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, plans to pursue a career in mathematics...
Elizabeth O’Brien leads by example, and her example sets the bar high. The 17-year-old Aberdeen, North Carolina...
Ten-year-old Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, defines resilience. She is the daughter of Michelle McIntyre-Brewer and Medical Service Corps Officer Capt. Steven Brewer.
Lorelei was born missing half of her heart, and her twin brother, Rory, passed away before the two were able to meet. She underwent open-heart surgery shortly after her birth at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and has since undergone 21 medical procedures, including three open-heart surgeries.
After her third open-heart surgery, Lorelei’s lungs collapsed and she started to literally drown in fluid surrounding her heart and lungs. After a long, grueling recovery, Lorelei survived her ordeal, but it changed her forever. At 5, she learned to sew to make compression heart pillows for pediatric open-heart patients, aiding in their recovery from surgery. She named her organization Heart Hugs, and it spread like wildfire.
Heart Hugs works with children's hospitals, orphanages and individual families to provide these pillows at no cost to the patient and family, using the kindness of volunteers around the world to help Lorelei ensure no child is turned away. Lorelei was awarded Dr. Oz’s Every Day Health Hero in 2015 for her work with Heart Hugs, of which she is the founder and CEO. She was also recognized by Points of Light Foundation and received the Maryland Volunteerism Award for her creation of Heart Hugs.
Lorelei also helps her brother, Cavan, the 2015 Army Military Child of the Year, manage Socks for Vets. Lorelei assists her brother in collecting goods for veterans and helped to train and care for the goats used to provide service support to wounded warriors.
Lorelei is a lifelong Girl Scout, receiving the highest distinction for a Junior Girl Scout, the Bronze Award, and has also been recognized as an Agent of Change. She participates in 4-H Club as secretary, earned the Bronze Clover, and is a National Trend Spotter. She advocates for children with profound medical needs on behalf of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Ronald McDonald House, Brittany’s Hope, Susquehanna Service Dogs, Congenital Heart Information Network and many other organizations.
Lorelei, who has a 4.0 grade point average, participates in the Single Ventricle Survivorship Program, the Cardiac Kids Developmental Follow-Up Program, and the Single Ventricle Revision Study Program.
Lorelei has endured seven military-related relocations and has experienced 36 months of her father’s deployment on top of her medical conditions. She has remained determined to make a difference.
Lorelei is not even thinking about slowing down. As she explained, "I am missing half of my heart, and people sometimes think I can’t do anything, but I can." And she does.
"No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning."
— Barbara De Angelis
Explaining how that quote applies to her, Lorelei said, "I can be so many things and help so many people as long as I stay focused."
Christian Fagala of Quantico, Virginia, likes to play dodge ball, but he confronted head-on an enemy that he could not dodge: cancer. And Christian would beat cancer – knocking it out with a combination of faith, determination and a zeal to make a difference in his community.
The son of Diana Fagala and Marine Corps Capt. Justin Fagala, Christian, 9 years old, was diagnosed with cancer at age 2. He was treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He had a harder time learning than other children due to the cognitive effects of chemotherapy, but he rose to the advanced reading level and otherwise exceeded academic expectations.
Christian has relocated four times already and has endured 16 months of his father’s deployment.
Rising to the challenges of military life, Christian at age 4 began doing speaking engagements on behalf of childhood cancer programs. He has spent countless hours making videos and using social media to elevate awareness of childhood cancer. Christian started his own campaign for Childhood Cancer Awareness, and he participates in numerous annual walks to raise money for the cause. Christian has raised more than $20,000 in the last few years for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and CureSearch. Christian also has devoted more than 100 hours to homeless outreach, participating in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts along the way.
Christian aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps and to become a Marine. If medical issues become an impediment, then he wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps and work for the Department of Defense.
Christian sees a bright side to being a member of a military family, adding, "Military kids get to travel a lot and live in a lot of places civilian kids may just travel to. We get to make so many friends from different places and experience different cultures."
If prayers can move mountains, prayers can cure cancer."
"God hears our prayers and helps us as much as he can," Christian said. "It reminds me that God can do very big things."
Jeffrey Burds of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was 9 years old when his mother succumbed to colon cancer. The day before she passed, his mother told him, "Do great things in life." It is apparent that 17-year-old Jeffrey, son of Debra Rae Burds and Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Joseph Burds, a hospital corpsman, took to those words to heart, devoting his life to making a difference in the lives of others. He is distinguished, above all, by his leadership and by his academic excellence.
Posting a 3.94 grade point average, Jeffrey is a National Honor Society volunteer and executive officer of the Camp Lejeune High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC, graduating from its boot camp as an honor graduate in 2013. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Jeffrey’s capacity for leadership is further evidenced by his roles on the high school’s track, football, wrestling, and basketball teams.
Jeffrey was honored in 2014 as most valuable player in track, defensive most valuable player in football, and the sportsmanship award in basketball. He captained his football and track teams.
In 2015, Jeffrey’s coaches chose him for the 8th Marine Regiment Workhorse Award, which the commander of the 8th Marines presented. The award is presented to "a senior student who is a team leader, shows exceptional character, and is a leader in the classroom." In the same year, Jeffrey was recognized for his academic leadership with the 2015 Rotary Youth Leadership Award. In 2014, Jeffrey received The American Legion Bronze Medal for Scholastic Excellence for excelling in the classroom as well as in JROTC, in which he has received more than 20 individual ribbons.
Jeffrey’s community service also includes, but is not limited to, his participation in Students Against Destructive Decisions, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Special Olympics, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, and the Semper Fi Fund Outdoor Odyssey. Jeffrey has cleared the high bar of academic achievement and community service through eight military permanent change of station relocations and 66 months of his father’s deployment. Indeed, as he contemplates his future, which may include service to his country as a Navy officer, Jeffrey continues to "do great things in life."
"You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets."
— Arnold Schwarzenegger
Explaining the relevance of these words to live by, Jeffrey said, "The harder you work and the more experience you obtain, the more it puts you that much higher up on your own ladder of success."
Madeleine Morlino of Moorestown, New Jersey, was adopted from China when she was 11 months old. Believing fervently that her family made her life better than it would have been had she remained in China, Madeleine has devoted her life to keeping America and her community strong.
A 17-year-old future U.S. Air Force Academy cadet, with a 4.23 weighted grade point average, Madeleine is the daughter of Kerry Ann Morlino and retired Air Force Master Sgt. Leonard Morlino. The teenager said, in profound gratitude to the United States and to her parents, "Every day I wake up, it feels like an accomplishment." Fittingly, just about every day, Madeleine accomplishes something for America — one veteran, indeed one citizen, at a time.
For instance, motivated by the challenges her family faced as her father transitioned from military to civilian life, Madeleine set out to ease the transition for other service members. She conceived, organized and led a job expo for veterans in her hometown. She and her colleagues on the committee that planned the event successfully attracted national and local businesses that were poised to offer veterans meaningful employment. Her outreach to veterans also includes her volunteerism at the Philadelphia-based VA Disabled Veterans Physiotherapy Clinic.
"Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough."
— Og Mandino
Madeleine said, "There have been many obstacles throughout my life, but even more moments of success that prove perseverance and determination can make dreams happen."
John "Trip" Landon III said that above all of the traits for which someone would choose him as a role model, he would want someone to select his "faith," because it is, as he explained, "the root of all of my other traits."
A National Honor Society member with a 3.9 grade point average, Trip is homeschooled for academics and participates in extracurricular activities at Ellensburg High School in Ellensburg, Washington. The 17-year-old son of Laura Landon and Army National Guard Capt. John Landon II has excelled in academics, sports, Scouting, the arts and faith-based service to his community.
Trip has been an Awana student leader for five school years, leading the Christian youth group on occasion in the absence of an adult. Trip has participated in Mazama Bible Camp, and as a member of Calvary Baptist Church, he also has served as a Vacation Bible School leader.
On the Ellensburg High School golf team, Trip twice earned academic athlete honors and was voted most inspirational player.
A violinist and pianist, Trip plays in the Ellensburg High School orchestra, performing three solo recitals and six concerts annually, while taking weekly lessons. Performing also at yearly competitions and festivals, Trip has played the piano at the Washington State Music Teachers’ Association Ribbon Festival, at the Central Washington University Sonatina Competition, and at the Washington State Regional Solo and Ensemble Competition. In the latter, he played the piano as well as the violin.
Trip is an achiever on camera and on stage, performing with numerous drama teams such as the Ellensburg Children’s Musical Theater, Ellensburg Library’s Teen Scene Movie Making, and the Ellensburg Care Net Pregnancy Center Drama Team.
Trip has made his mark in Scouting. As a Silver Palm-awarded Eagle Scout, Trip, who achieved the coveted rank of Eagle Scout before his 15th birthday, led four teenagers and four adults in planning and constructing an archery range backstop, a project that entailed 574 manhours. Having earned the Arrow of Light in the Cub Scouts and an impressive three palm leaves overall in Scouting, Trip has served as a Cub Scout den chief and has led two Cub Scout day camps and two Cub Scout overnight camps.
Trip aspires to work in prosthetics engineering, a career path which would allow him to help wounded warriors to return to service.
Trip has touched many lives throughout his lifelong walk of faith.
"Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching."
— C.S. Lewis
"I’ve been raised my whole life to be a godly man of integrity," Trip said. "This quote is a simple truth that reminds me how to do that."
Keegan Fike of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, plans to pursue a career in mathematics, an appropriate career choice for an outstanding scholar who is distinguished by his management skills as he serves his community.
The son of Rebecca Fike and Coast Guard Lt. Brent Fike, Keegan has been active in the Boy Scouts, including, but certainly not limited to, organizing food drives, leading, emceeing or otherwise participating in flag-retirement ceremonies, and mentoring Cub Scouts and junior Boy Scouts as an assistant scoutmaster.
As a junior assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 52, Keegan earned the Cachalot Youth Leadership Award of Merit for his participation in the 2014 summer camp, leading boys from three different troops. He also scheduled activities and led training sessions on fire safety, geocaching, flag etiquette, and other instruction.
The town of Fairhaven officially thanked him for leading an Eagle Scout project that restored the five once weather-beaten and rusted cannons at Fort Phoenix.
Keegan helped the Lions Club to prepare eyeglasses for recycling. In keeping with his commitment to his faith, Keegan also set up, served food and cleaned up during feasts at St. Mary’s Church.
The National Honor Society member has a creative side. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Boston/New England honored Keegan with an excellence award for a high school media production titled "My Hero Is …," for which he was a photographer and editor.
Keegan has endured 125 months of his father’s deployment and has experienced six military permanent-change-of-station relocations. In the tradition of Military Child of the Year recipients, he makes time to make a difference.
"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking."
— Marcus Aurelius
Keegan said this quote helped him to "stay positive," adding, "All my life, I have tried to be happy and be a reassuring force for my peers. The positive state of mind I try to keep helps me stay focused and be the best I can be."
Elizabeth O’Brien leads by example, and her example sets the bar high. The 17-year-old Aberdeen, North Carolina, resident, who has been accepted to the competitive private High Point University, has been awarded the first Operation Homefront-Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children.
With a new invention, improvement to existing technology, creation of a new nonprofit or community service group or expansion of an existing membership organization, the winner of this award shows the power of innovative thinking. Elizabeth, the daughter of Shelbi O’Brien and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew O’Brien, has fulfilled the lofty criteria while her family has experienced five permanent changes of station and 34 months of deployment.
Elizabeth’s innovation is the Military Child Access Assistance Program. In partnership with the nonprofit Military Missions in Action, this program provides accessibility ramps and other home modifications to children's homes, which are not covered by the TRICARE military health plan. She has logged 1,500 volunteer hours with MMIA since age 12.
In addition, Elizabeth developed the Hike2Help 5K, which has raised more than $7,000 and funded three accessibility ramps, in addition to other accessibility modifications.
One of Elizabeth’s biggest accomplishments has been her fundraising for homeless veterans, collecting for them more than 600 blankets in the fall of 2014 and more than 700 pairs of socks in the fall of 2015. She conducted this project on her own, personally recording a local radio public service announcement to support the cause and speaking to civic groups and veterans groups.
A National Honor Society member with a weighted 4.42 grade point average, Elizabeth was crowned Miss Thomasville’s Outstanding Teen 2015 and Miss Moore County Outstanding Teen 2014. Also a Miss UNC Pembroke titleholder in recent years, Elizabeth has been classically trained in the piano since she was 5.
This varsity lacrosse player also has participated in the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics and Spin 4 Life to benefit children and families battling cancer.
Never too busy to help others, Elizabeth is an enthusiastic mentor to younger students. And she has a lot wisdom and life experience to share.
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
"I have learned so much of who I am through volunteering and putting others first," Elizabeth said. "The feeling I have when I see the impact of what I’ve done on others is unexplainable. I want to always live my life helping those around me."
The average child in a military family will move six to nine times during a school career. That's an average of three times more frequently than nonmilitary families.
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