We asked these young achievers -- representing the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and National Guard -- for advice they might give to other military children, and to military parents. For more about how they earned their Child of the Year honors, read their bios here.
Honoree: Jamal Braxton
Advice for military children: “Appreciate the opportunities they have as military kids. They’re able to experience different cultures and different environments – an education with that experience is of greater value than reading it in a book. ... Focus on your talents, not on what you can’t do."
Do things that get you out of your comfort zone. … You’ll grow and reach things you haven’t done before, and in the end you will feel comfortable because you have experienced and learned.”
Advice for military parents: “Travel as much as you can with your kids. Don’t just stay on the airbase. There are so many experiences you can have while overseas or even in a different state." Through these experiences, Jamal said, “they can learn about and appreciate other cultures, and have a greater understanding about the world around them.”
Honoree: Henderson Heussner
Advice for military children: “Look at these experiences not as being adverse or difficult, but as opportunities to do something great and make an improvement of some sort, and to improve yourself and your character.”
Advice for military parents: “Try to learn from your kids, and how they deal with things. Kids in military families are often the most resilient, and embody perseverance. Parenting is difficult enough, but doing it as a single parent when your spouse is at war can get really challenging.
“Look to your kids for inspiration and ideas on how to get through things more easily. Talk to your kids about what they’re experiencing and feeling. There are a lot of emotions that go into being part of the military and a lot of experiences are hard to process for military children. Look for inspiration and ideas for how to get them through things more easily. Talk to them about what they’re going through. Having an open dialogue is really valuable."
Honoree: Mary Kate Cooper
Advice for military children: “Be yourself, but be outgoing and enthusiastic. It can be hard moving to places and to smile,” said Mary, who is about to make her sixth move. “You have to put yourself out there and it can be scary, but in the end, it’s usually rewarding.”
Advice for military parents: “My family has always had the idea that it’s the whole family that serves. You have to acknowledge that everyone sacrifices stuff so that you can serve your country. Make sure that you realize that you should be proud of what your family does, and instill that in your children.”
Honoree: Jackson Beatty
Advice for military children: “Follow your dreams and never give up. Give it all you’ve got. Try everything you want to. Don’t be afraid.”
Advice for military parents: “Let your child try and experience new things. Don’t hold them back. Help them out. Believe in them. Be there for them when they need you, because that helped me a lot.”
Honoree: Molly Frey
Advice for military parents: “Keep your kids involved in many different activities. They’ll take off running and accomplish some amazing things.”
Honoree: Alexander McGrath
Advice for military children: “Keep your head up, because you’ll be stronger for it,” he said, advising children to take advantage of opportunities and friendships. “Enjoy it, and as a military child you’ll definitely be stronger for it."
Advice to military parents: “Find them an activity they’re interested in that transfers. For me, it’s been the Boy Scouts. Whatever city or state I’m in, I can always find a Boy Scout troop.
“Also, my family goes to Maine every summer. It’s consistency where the only constant is change. While mobility can be an asset, I have also drawn strength in times of life when things were too fluid, from going to a Boy Scout meeting, and from going to the Maine cabin with all my extended family.”