First Lady Cites Military Children's Resilience
(April 12, 2011)
First Lady Michelle Obama
thanks military children for their contributions
during her remarks at Operation Homefront's 2011
Military Child of the Year award ceremony in
Arlington, Va., April 7, 2011.
ARLINGTON, VA, April 8, 2011 – Melissa Howland,
a high school senior, was diagnosed with a
blood-clotting disorder the year her Navy father
deployed to Iraq.
Unable to pursue the
sports she loved, and with her father away,
Melissa easily could have become discouraged.
Instead, the 17 year old refocused her efforts
on community service.
Last year, she
donated nearly 500 volunteer hours to 12 causes,
including the hospital where she was treated.
Howland was one of the five military
children –- one from each service -- honored
last night for their resilience, strength of
character and leadership during Operation
Homefront's 2011 Military Child of the Year
award ceremony here.
First Lady Michelle
Obama, keynote speaker for the event, called
Howland and the other recipients “shining
examples” of what youth can accomplish with “a
little will, a little passion, and a little
Obama said Howland could
have chosen to feel sorry for herself, instead,
“she decided –- and these are her words -– ‘You
can't go wrong giving back.'”
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
Obama said she and her husband know of the honorees'
achievements in school -– “they're amazing” -- and the
countless hours they've spent volunteering in their
communities and caring for their families.|
tonight because I want our country to know about you all, as
well,” she said. “I want our country to know about the five
of you and about all the military kids and families all
across this country.”
Obama said it's time for every
American to step up and show gratitude for military
families. Next week, the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife
of Vice President Joe Biden, plan to launch a nationwide
campaign that will call on all Americans to honor, recognize
and support military families.
“Our message is very
clear: It's that every American has the ability -- and the
obligation -- to give something back to our military
families,” she said.
Obama said she and Biden will
hit the road in the coming months to highlight the nation's
stand-out businesses, nonprofits and community efforts.
“We're going to be doing everything that we can to tell
the stories of our military families,” she said.
people are aware of the sacrifices military members make,
Obama said, but may be less aware that the military force is
“largely a force of families.” More than half of the
active-duty force is married, she noted, and there are
nearly 2 million military children.
“A lot of folks
don't realize that when our troops are called to serve,
their families serve, too,” she said. “A lot of folks simply
don't know the stories of our military families and their
Obama shared the story of 17-year-old Nicole
Goetz, the Air Force's Military Child of the Year. Goetz
tutors her younger brother, cheers him up while their father
is deployed, and has performed 500 hours of community
service -- all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average,
the first lady said.
Obama pointed out that the
teen's father, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael Goetz,
traveled here from Afghanistan to see his daughter get her
award in person.
Military children shoulder
additional responsibilities not only when their parents are
deployed, but when they return home as well, the first lady
“And when a parent comes home wounded, the
result can be a real role reversal,” she said. “It can mean
taking care of Mom or Dad who once took care of you; taking
on responsibilities that would be overwhelming for most
adults, let alone for most kids.”
That's exactly what
17-year-old Taylor Dahl-Sims, the Marine Corps' Military
Child of the Year did, Obama said.
brother was injured at birth and her house flooded –- all
while her stepfather was on his fifth deployment. She helped
care for the baby, clean up the house and, when her
stepfather returned home with a traumatic brain injury, she
continued to pitch in to care for her family.
when we talk about service to our country, when we talk
about all that sacrifice for a cause, when we talk about
patriotism and courage and resilience, we're not just
talking about our troops and our veterans,” Obama said,
“we're talking about our military families, as well.”
And military children, she said, “play their own very
unique role in keeping our country safe and preserving the
freedoms that we all hold dear.
“I think we could
learn a thing or two from a couple of our honorees tonight,”
Following the first lady's remarks, top
military leaders presented an award to their service's award
recipient. The recipients include:
|Five military children -–
one from each service –- are honored for their
resilience, strength of character and leadership
during Operation Homefront's 2011 Military Child of
the Year award ceremony in Arlington, Va., April 7,
2011. The honorees are, bottom row, from left,
Taylor Dahl-Sims for the Marine Corps, Margaret
Rochon for the Coast Guard, Melissa Howland for the
Navy, Nicole Goetz for the Air Force, and, top row,
Kyle Hoeye for the Army.
For the Army, 16-year-old Kyle Hoeye, of Tucson,
Ariz., who 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 has handwritten hundreds of letters to local
military children, thanking them for their service.
For the Navy, 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, Goetz, of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.,
volunteered at the local youth center, her 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, 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, 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.
committee of active-duty service members, family
readiness support assistants, teachers, military mothers
and community members chose the award recipients. The
winners received $5,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.,
for the ceremony.
Article and photos by Elaine Sanchez|
American Forces Press Service
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