'Military Kid of Year' Has Leadership Qualities
(April 21, 2011)
Tristan Fissette, 10, demonstrates his
black-belt karate form for the audience at the Our Military Kids of
the Year awards ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.,
April 14, 2011. Tristan, whose father serves in the Navy Reserve,
was one of four children honored by Our Military Kids, a nonprofit
organization that provides artistic, athletic and educational grants
to children of deployed National Guardsmen and military reservists.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Gordon
||WASHINGTON, April 15, 2011 – For a 10-year-old boy,
Tristan Fissette has fortitude to spare.
The son of Chief
Petty Officer Patrick Fissette, a Navy reservist, the fourth-grader
is working on his second-degree black belt in karate and has no
shortage of other activities that keep him busy, especially when his
dad is deployed. Despite the demands of his karate training, he
finds time to help feed the hungry and to mentor new students in
karate and in school.
Tristan's leadership qualities led a
panel from the nonprofit “Our Military Kids” organization to choose
him as one of four Military Kids of the Year.
Tristan and the
other winners -- Keegan Neverett, 16, of Leesburg, Fla.;
Chris-Shanti Jackson, 15, of Jackson, Miss.; and Katherine Bensburg,
14, of Mahopac, N.Y. -- won year-long grants to pursue their
interests. In Tristan's case,
it will pay for his karate training and boot camp.
The organization also named the family of Air Force Senior
Master Sgt. William Liston, an Air National Guardsman from
West River, Md., as its Family of the Year.|
is the youngest of the four individual award winners.
“I thought it was pretty exciting,” he said at
yesterday's award ceremony. “We were able to come to
Washington, D.C., and I've never been here or able to get an
award.” His face lit up as he talked about today's special
White House and Pentagon tours.
Our Military Kids is
a public-private partnership that awards grants to children
of deployed National Guardsmen, reservists and certain
Unlike children from active-duty
families, they don't live on or near a base, surrounded by
solid support systems and activities. Rather, said Greg
O'Brien of Our Military Kids, these children often are
isolated in their communities, where people may not
understand what military children go through when a parent
“My husband is deployed more often than
not, it seems,” said Tristan's mom, Kimberly Fissette. To
fill the time when he was deployed, she added, the family
turned to community service near their home in Elk Grove
“We hand out food at a mobile food
bank,” she said. The family also volunteers for “Feed My
Starving Children” by sending nutrient-rich foods to
children in other countries.
Community service is one
of Tristan's passions, his mother said. When his father was
in Kuwait during one of his four deployments, Tristan was 7.
It was then the youngster enrolled in karate to stay busy
while his dad was away. Before long, he was hooked on the
ancient martial art.
“He's one of the youngest in his
karate school to receive a black belt,” Kimberly said. “With
his dad gone, he just pursued it above and beyond. Most
people don't get their black belts for three or four years,
and Tristan did it in two and a half.”
quickly moved into upper-level training. Now he trains
several days a week.
“You get to do funner things
like a sword-sparring class, one of my favorites,” Tristan
said, quickly explaining the “swords” are made of foam.
His activities don't stop there.
karate or school, Tristan mentors all the new kids,
especially if they're struggling.
Tristan said, “I kinda tell them how to bow and do other
karate things. And sometimes if they're having trouble, I'll
He mentors on his own, his mom says. No
one asked him to help.
Tristan admits he's a pretty good
student and good with new kids. “I'll talk to them, and
sometimes in math, if they're having trouble with a problem,
I'll maybe help them out with it,” he said.
11-year-old sister, Kailey, like many other children at the
awards ceremony, won a six-month grant to pursue her
interest in hip-hop dancing.
O'Brien said the four
Military Kids of the Year were chosen from 150 who applied.
Since 2004, he said, the grants have grown and so has the
program's popularity. The organization's Facebook page has
nearly 5,500 members.
“‘Our Military Kids'”
has provided 28,000 grants totaling $11 million since 2004,
O'Brien said. This year's four Kids of the Year received
grants of up to $500 per six months, and might qualify for
six more months if the parent is deployed.
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
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