Military children’s big hearts, good deeds earn big reward

The five winners of the Military Child of the Year from left to right Juanita Collins, Ryan Curtin, Michael-Logan Jordan, Kenzie Hall and Gage Dabin pose for a photo during a gala to honor their service in D.C. Thursday. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

Megan Cloherty and Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Operation Homefront is honoring five remarkable young people for their support of children of service members.

A Military Child of the Year was selected to represent each branch of the military and honored at a banquet Thursday in D.C.

  • Air Force: Gage Alan Dabin
  • Army: Kenzie Hall
  • Coast Guard: Juanita Lindsay Collins
  • Marine Corps: Michael-Logan Burke Jordan
  • Navy: Ryan Patrick Curtin

Army representative Kenzie Hall created the charity Bratpack 11 to fulfill the dreams and wishes of children whose parent was either killed or wounded in the service.

“You feel guilty because – like wow – my dad came home and yours didn’t,” Hall tells WTOP.

Some of those wishes include trips to Disneyland, introductions to Hollywood stars and a trip to a Broadway production of “Superman.”

“For them to be able to have this little piece of sunshine and have an escape is something I really am passionate about,” says 16-year-old Hall.

Representing the Navy, 18-year-old Ryan Curtin sponsors programs at his school to help new classmates feel welcome. This summer Curtin will be moving with his family to another military assignment for what will be their 10th re-location.

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Holding a pair of boots, Army recipient Kenzie Hall talks with rocker and keynote speaker Bret Michaels at the Military Child of the Year Award Gala Thursday. Kenzie was loaned a dress from designer Marchesa for the event. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

“I know firsthand that you can dread going to a new school if you know you have to sit alone at lunch or anything like that,” Curtin says.

One of the programs he supports is to have a lunchroom table where new transfers can hang out with members of a group or a club.

“They know they have somebody to sit with until they can branch out on their own and do their own thing,” he says.

Military service can be disruptive to family life. Some children of service members believe however that the experience can build character. One such believer is rocker Bret Michaels.

“You take adversity and turn it into an opportunity,” says Michaels. “I was a military child myself. My father was in the Navy,” he says.

Michaels gave the keynote address at the Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year Award Gala in D.C. Thursday.

The youngsters chosen to be Military Child of the Year were selected from nearly 1,000 nominees.

“Tonight is about celebrating what they’ve overcome and what they had to do to get here,” says Michaels.

“My dad has done so much for me,” says Curtin. “There’s no way I’d be here without him. It was nice of him to nominate me.”

Award recipients received free airfare to the gala with an accompanying parent or guardian, a laptop and $5,000.

“Wow! Out of thousands of military brats,” says Hall, “It’s such an honor.”

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