WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 20, 2015) — Resilience, leadership and achievement are just a few of the many traits that earned six youths acclaim from senior leaders during Operation Homefront’s 7th annual Military Child of the Year Award Gala in Arlington, Va., April 16.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and keynote speaker, and Jason Brown, a former professional athlete, honored the sacrifices of some two million military children around the world. Out of more than 500 nominations, six were chosen, representing each service branch, including an Army child, who created a nonprofit organization to help wounded warriors.
“Our awardees have pursued excellence; they’ve made it a priority to serve others. They’ve inspired us. They’ve done it with character,” Dempsey said. “I’m incredibly proud and honored to be the chairman of such a fighting force with incredible military Families who support them. Our winners tonight are perfect examples of the stellar quality of military kids, and we’re so fortunate to have them in our military family. This nation asks a lot of each of you, and each of you continues to prove day in and day out that you are strong, that you are resilient and you are full of love of our country and for each other.”
Brown said he was honored to speak during the event, which took place at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, and was inspired by the military children. While he has never personally served in the military, his older brother, Lester Bernard Brown II, paid the ultimate sacrifice, Sept. 20, 2003, in Afghanistan, while serving in the Army.
“I’ve been so touched by military Families,” Brown said. “And my big brother was everything. He gave me encouragement every single day. He wanted me to be an even better person than he was. He was a hero. And these kids, I was invited here to inspire them but after learning about them, I’m the one who’s inspired. They’re the best and the brightest, not just academically, but service minded, who have gone out of their way to help out their fellow man, to help out their Families, to help out their communities and not just in America in the entire world,” he said.
Each April – the Month of the Military Child – the winner from each service branch receives a $10,000 cash award and a laptop, and is flown here with a parent or guardian for a special recognition ceremony.
For Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 13, he likes to stand up for veterans.
He visited a veteran care facility in 2008 and noticed many of them did not have socks. He created a nonprofit organization, the Socks for Vets program, and has helped 7,500 wounded warriors with socks and other donated items. He advocates for veterans through this program at the state and national levels, promoting events and telling the stories of those he served. He also assists his sister with fundraising for her program, Heart Hugs, which involves collecting, sterilizing and distributing compression pillows sized for pediatric heart patients.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn said McIntyre-Brewer “is an incredibly quiet, humble and shy individual who exemplifies a spirit of selfless service.”
McIntyre-Brewer also works on a project called Pack Goats, where goats carry camping gear for wounded warriors, who have prosthetics, and supports veteran’s rights.
“Veterans and wounded warriors aren’t that guy in the wheelchair or a homeless person that no one seems to care about. They are normal people who want the same things we do, and when I spend time with them, I feel like my family just gets bigger and bigger,” McIntyre-Brewer said.
ARMY AND AIR NATIONAL GUARD
This is the first year a child was chosen for the Army and Air National Guard.
“I’m really proud to be able to represent my branch and to bring light to what we go through, too, as military children,” Zach Parsons, 16, said.
Gen. Frank Grass, chief, National Guard Bureau echoed his sentiment. “What a great opportunity to include a Guard Family here tonight,” Grass said. “Our military child of the year represents the 460,000 men and women of the Army and Air National Guard. He’s just an amazing young man.”
While Parsons’ father was deployed to Afghanistan, he and his mother took care of an 80-acre farm with 50 head of cattle and then his father was injured. Taking on this increased responsibility has been tough, but has made him stronger, Parsons said.
“It’s been tough for my mom and I but it’s helped me develop a lot of character traits and skills I now have so I can be a leader in my community and I can be successful in 4-H,” he said. “I owe it all to my experience to being a military kid because I’ve been able to gain and learn all that respect,” he said.
The general said Parsons is most proud of being on the Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council because it allows him to advocate for support of military children. By sharing his experience of his dad being away for training, deployment and injury, he is able to relate to a large number of military children.