Nonprofit organization Operation Homefront yesterday announced six recipients -- one from each military service and one, for the first time, from the National Guard -- of its 2015 Military Child of the Year Award.
“We’re thrilled to honor these six outstanding young patriots with our Military Child of the Year Award,” said Tim Farrell, chief operating officer for Operation Homefront.
“These awardees represent the strength of our military families, who sacrifice so much in service to our country,” he said.
About Operation Homefront
With a national footprint, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers in providing emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.
Since its inception in 2002, Operation Homefront has assisted thousands of military families, with 92 percent of its total donations going directly to programs that provide that support.
Operation Homefront shared some background on each award recipient.
Army award recipient Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 13, of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, founded “Socks for Vets,” which collects socks and other donated items for wounded warriors.
The 13-year-old also helps his sister, herself a pediatric heart patient, with her program, “Heart Hugs,” which collects pillows for pediatric heart patients.
McIntyre-Brewer is the oldest child of Army Capt. Steven Brewer, medical detachment commander at Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and his wife, Michelle McIntyre-Brewer, an educator and medical and military advocate.
Christopher-Raul Rodriguez, 17, is the 2015 Marine Corps award recipient. As a senior at Lejeune High School, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he serves as the school’s team captain for varsity baseball and soccer as well as junior varsity basketball.
Rodriguez also serves as an assistant coach for eight to 12-year-old students in Lejeune Youth baseball, soccer and basketball, and volunteers with a number of organizations to help children with special needs.
He is the oldest child of Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Smith and his wife, Griscelda, an on-base family childcare provider at Camp Lejeune.
Navy award recipient, Emily Kliewer, 17, of Orlando, Florida, a senior at Dr. Phillips High School, is on track to graduate as the valedictorian of her class.
In addition to academic excellence, she is captain of her swimming and diving team and a four-time school record holder who volunteers with the Special Olympics as a swimming instructor and volunteer coach.
Kliewer, who is also involved with other special needs organizations, is the daughter of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Kliewer and his wife, Cynthia.
Air Force award recipient, Sarah Hesterman, 16, lives in Doha, Qatar, and is the founder and president of “Girl Up Qatar,” a club that promotes the rights of women and girls in the Middle East and around the world.
A junior at the American School of Doha, Hesterman’s club is part of the United Nations foundation innovation campaign, “Girl Up,” which advocates the empowerment of girls.
She is the only child of Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and his wife, Jennifer, a professor and academic author who retired from the Air Force as a colonel with 21 years of service.
Caleb Parsons, 18, of Suffolk, Virginia, is the Coast Guard’s 2015 award recipient, and a senior at King’s Fork High School. He is an Eagle Scout and senior patrol leader in the Boy Scouts of America. He led his troop to revamp a dilapidated trail in a park, leveling the path and installing fencing.
In the Air Force Junior ROTC, he has achieved the program’s highest achievable rank. He also helps his grandparents care for his three younger siblings while both of his parents are deployed.
Parsons is the oldest son of Air Force Staff Sgt. Story Parsons, and her husband, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Ward Parsons.
The National Guard’s inaugural award recipient, Zachary Parsons, 16, of Warrensburg, Missouri, is a sophomore at Sacred Heart High School and an active member of his local and state-level 4-H organization.
Parsons serves as the National 4-H Congress delegate from Missouri.
He also helps support the children of deployed military members on the Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council, advocating for support with nonprofits, legislature and the public.
Parsons is the youngest son of Missouri National Guard Army Staff Sgt. Jason Parsons, currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and his wife, Debbie.
Gifts and Prizes
According to Operation Homefront, the six award recipients were selected from nearly 500 nominees chosen by a committee including active duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leaders, teachers and community members.
Courtesy of Operation Homefront, each of the award recipients will receive $10,000, a laptop computer and other donated gifts, and will fly with a parent or guardian to the nation’s capital for a recognition gala on April 16.
According to the nonprofit organization, the awards will be presented by senior leaders of each branch of service.
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)