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2024 Military Child of the Year® Award Recipients

Now in its 16th year, the Military Child of the Year® Award reflects the positive impact that these impressive young people have made on their military families, their schools, and their communities.

Noelani Martinez, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Air Force

Noelani Martinez, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Air Force

Noelani Martinez, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Air Force, is a rock ’n’ roll drummer who embodies sacrifice and resilience. The 16-year-old aspiring composer and performer is a junior at Brennan High School in San Antonio, Texas.

Noelani is the daughter of Gail and Air Force Col. Melchizedek “Kato” Martinez, a Purple Heart recipient who served for 29 years and retired in July 2021. Gail died in 2016 in a terrorist attack at the Brussels airport, which left Noelani, then 9, her dad, and three siblings seriously injured.  

Her resilience began to shine while her family was hospitalized. She was the only one among them able to walk, and she would visit them, share joyful observations, and enlist nurses to help them.

As a military child who experienced six permanent changes of station, Noelani’s world was broadened.

 “It’s amazing to be able to make friends from various places in the world and share our experiences,” she said.

She remembers the pride she felt as she and her younger sister sang the national anthem at their father’s retirement ceremony presided by the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Goldfein.

Noelani also acknowledges the difficulties military families face, and she urges other military kids to “give themselves grace” because it’s okay to struggle with the hard things they go through.

Noelani is inspired by memories of her mom to excel in school, ROTC leadership, and as a drummer with the San Antonio School of Rock House Band.

“She continues to bear both the physical and emotional scars of that tragic day, but rather than allow it to defeat her, she uses the pain to fight on and honor her mother’s love,” her father said, adding that Noelani assumed the role of caregiver for him and her younger sister after her older brother and sister started their respective careers in academia and government civil service.

Noelani dreams of composing music for movies, video games, and musicals. “I’ve always wanted to evoke specific emotions through music and show how magical it can be,” she said.

After graduation, Noelani aims to pursue her music career by studying at either the Berklee Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, or the SJA Music Institute in South Korea.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • National Purple Heart Leadership Award
  • Outstanding Cadet of the Year, 2021
  • School of Rock House Band lead drummer
  • Led Freshman Flight to win Top Flight of Corp, 2021
  • Best Cadet in Corp Cadet Leadership Camp, 2022
  • 240+ hours of leadership development earned at drill competitions and practices
  • Led JV Unarmed Drill Team to first place at Somerset Drill Competition, 2022
  • Currently in the top 2 percent of graduating class of 850+ seniors

Favorite Quote
“… When all are one and one is all, to be a rock and not to roll …” – Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven”

Allison Candelario, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Army

Allison Candelario, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Army

Allison Candelario, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Army, learned the value of empathy and began envisioning her future as a pediatric surgeon when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 13. Allison, 18, is a senior at Grafton High School in Yorktown, Virginia. 

She is the daughter of Maria and Sgt. Maj. Daniel Candelario, whose military service spans 26 years across the Army, Marines, and Air Force Reserves. Currently serving in Kuwait, Sgt. Maj. Candelario has been deployed for a total of seven years of Allison’s life. Her brother also serves in the Army, highlighting a strong family tradition of military service.

Allison was a freshman when her journey from breast cancer patient to survivor began. The experience, she said, became the foundation of her commitment to shaping a kind, compassionate future.

“My aim is to become a pediatric surgeon who can not only heal bodies but also etch values of empathy into the hearts of patients,” she said. “This experience ignited in me a determination to carry forward the values of empathy and compassion.”

Allison logged 880 volunteer hours in the past year, some of it working with a hospital’s surgical intensive care unit nurses, delivering meals to patients, and cleaning operating rooms. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she collaborated with women’s health professionals to develop a curriculum for teaching girls about their bodies.

Her resilience developed early and strengthened with each of the family’s seven permanent change of station moves. Since Allison was in kindergarten, her family has moved every three years.

She urges others to embrace the transient lifestyle of military families.

“Each new assignment is an opportunity to leave a mark, whether it’s by fostering connections, initiating positive changes, or simply being a source of support for others,” she said. “From a young age, I’ve learned to navigate new environments, cultures, and communities. … This adaptability has been a significant advantage.”

She is eager to put the skills to use in the fall when she enters Virginia Tech, where she plans to earn a degree in biochemistry before attending medical school.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • Member of Grafton High School Student Council Association
  • Earned 30 college credits as dual-enrollment student at Virginia Peninsula Community College
  • Captain of the speech and debate team; state champion in dramatic interpretation
  • Girl Scout Gold Award recipient
  • Volunteer at Riverside Regional Medical Center on surgery floor, post-anesthesia care unit, and other areas
  • Spanish, math, history, English, and science honor societies
  • Volunteer of the Year for the 594th Transportation Company, in the 101st Sustainment Brigade
  • Over 1,000 hours of community service since third grade

Favorite Quote
“This too shall pass.” – Abraham Lincoln

Charlotte Tama, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Coast Guard

Charlotte Tama, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Coast Guard

Charlotte Tama, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard, has learned through her father’s service career that when facing a new situation, just dive in.

Charlotte, 18, is a senior at the School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., where she resides with her parents, Sarah and U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jason Tama, and her 16-year-old sister.

Charlotte views military life as a series of adventures, having participated in unique experiences such as marching with Coasties in the New York City Veterans Day parade and viewing Fourth of July fireworks from the deck of a Coast Guard ship in New York Harbor. During her father’s career, Charlotte has experienced six permanent change of station moves, which have taught her the importance of diving into new situations with confidence.

Charlotte believes that engaging in school, sports, extracurricular activities, community service, and faith-based groups is crucial for making connections and feeling at home in new places. “Getting involved…will help you form connections in your new community and make a new place feel more like home,” she said.

The Tama family was stationed in New York when Charlotte was in middle school, and the COVID-19 pandemic besieged the city. In response, Charlotte and her sister were founding members of their school’s Junior Giving Circle to do things for the community. Through the organization, students of all grade levels created crafts to gift to healthcare workers on Staten Island.

“Throughout the years of being a military family, we’ve learned how to involve ourselves in our communities, and we’ve learned that giving back is a really great way to get involved,” she said.

Charlotte applies the same dedication on the soccer field and in the classroom, earning her academic honors and the distinction of being captain of her varsity team.

She is still weighing college options but plans to study physics. Her goal is to apply her passion for physics, math, and astronomy to a career in education so she can empower young girls to pursue careers in STEM.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • Team captain, School Without Walls High School varsity soccer
  • All-League Award, 2023 DCIAA Girls Soccer
  • National Merit Scholarship Letter of Commendation
  • AP Scholar with Distinction
  • Score of 5 on five AP exams
  • 195+ community service hours
  • U.S. Presidential Scholars Program Candidate
  • Academic Excellence in chemistry and algebra 2 (schoolwide awards)

Favorite Quote
“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Isabella Arrieta, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Marines

Isabella Arrieta, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Marines

Isabella Arrieta, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Marine Corps, aspires to become a criminal defense attorney, and she isn’t waiting for law school or even college to get experience in the field.

The 17-year-old senior at Chaparral High School in Temecula, California, volunteers with a local peer court program that offers juveniles a hands-on understanding of the judicial system, including roles from juror to attorney. She also cultivates her knowledge of the law through her school’s Mock Trial team and an internship at a local law firm.

Isabella is the daughter of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Arrieta, an aircraft mechanic instructor with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit North Island, and Denise Arrieta, who works as an alternative education clerk. Isabella has a 12-year-old sister.

One of her most cherished memories is of pinning her father’s uniform during his last promotion ceremony, a moment that underscored the pride she feels for her family’s military service and the sacrifices that come with it.

“I was so proud to be his daughter,” Isabella recalled. She equally admires her mother for her role in supporting the family through financial challenges and periods of separation due to her father’s deployments. Isabella credits her mother’s strength and resilience for forming the foundation of her own character and achievements.

Isabella’s father’s three deployments, totaling 36 months, and his assignment to a recruiting office three hours away have taught her resilience and determination. Despite the difficulties faced by military families, Isabella sees the benefits, particularly in terms of education.

“As a military child in California, it’s an incredible feeling to know that I can attend college without taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt,” she said.

An honor student and captain of the varsity cross country team, Isabella has devoted 865 hours to clubs, sports, and volunteer work in the past year. She aspires to attend a University of California and major in legal studies and economics. Her journey reflects a deep commitment to service, both in her immediate community and in her future ambitions.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • First high school research intern at National Latino Research Center
  • Legal intern, Semnar & Hartman
  • Women in Law founder and president; hosted Criminal Justice Conference
  • Speech and Debate founder and president
  • Mock Trial captain; team earned third in Riverside County
  • Southwest Valley Youth Court attorney and juror
  • Captain, varsity girls cross country team
  • Member, Temecula Youth Advisory Council

Favorite Quote
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” — Earl Nightingale

Caleb Hatch, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard

Caleb Hatch, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard

Caleb Hatch, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the National Guard, is 19 years old and holds a love of science that has propelled him to already complete three years of college, first at community college then at University of Colorado Boulder (CU), as well as conduct a humanitarian project in Nepal.

He is the son of National Guard Col. Shawn Hatch and Army veteran Marie Hatch. His mother served five years before honorably discharging in 2005 as a captain from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. His father has served since 1999. Caleb has an older sister and a younger brother and sister.

Caleb’s resiliency has shown through the difficulties of 38 months of parent deployments along with his handling of medical issues – being diagnosed with diabetes and celiac disease. His interest in science has helped him cope with his health hardships.

“I love science,” Caleb said. “I love constantly being in awe of how the world works, like how computers can teach me physics or how bioengineering has created the insulin that keeps me alive. I want to be part of making the world a better place through innovation.”

Caleb has immersed himself in learning about science. He is active with the CU Boulder chapter of Engineers without Borders, serving in a variety of capacities. As part of the chapter, Caleb was on the Nepal team that implemented a spring source protection and water distribution system in a community in rural Nepal. Other science highlights include his contribution to the creation of a particle physics experiment proposal with an international team of high school students for the proton synchrotron at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). Caleb was also awarded a full scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study Mandarin in Taiwan for an academic year.

Caleb balances his STEM pursuits with music. He plays the viola and has served as principal chair for a number of ensembles within the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony. He has taught multiple students the violin and viola. He also plays the ukulele and the tin whistle, including a whimsical rendition of Lord of the Rings scores.

Academically, Caleb’s achievements include being a National Merit Finalist and receiving the National Rural and Small Town Recognition Award. With graduation in engineering physics on the horizon next year, he aspires to further his education in graduate school.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • Research for undergraduate thesis in clean-water technology, previous research at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Colorado State University, Fort Collins, affiliated with the National Science Foundation and the Army Educational Outreach Program
  • CU Chapter Director of Special Projects for Engineers Without Borders, Nepal project secretary and education lead
  • National Security Language Initiative Scholar
  • Air/Soil Quality InQuiry Program, which sends university students to rural areas to teach research projects with low-cost instruments to measure air and soil quality
  • Founded a STEM education organization at high school
  • Beyond Type One Diabetes Scholar, Disney Dreamer Class of 2022, GO Scholar
  • Finalist in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Beamline for Schools physics competition for high school students
  • Music outreach as a volunteer viola instructor and regional honor orchestra viola principal chair; Colorado All State Orchestra

Favorite Quote
“Pessimism is a luxury we simply cannot afford.” – Kumi Naidoo

Lindsay Carstairs, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Navy

Lindsay Carstairs, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Navy

Lindsay Carstairs, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Navy, turned a devastating diagnosis of a rare form of epilepsy into a passion for advocacy and community service.

 Lindsay, 18, is the daughter of Navy veterans Shaun and Keri Carstairs. Shaun retired as a captain after a distinguished career of 25 years, and Keri served for 13 years, achieving the rank of commander before her honorable discharge in 2011. Both parents have medical backgrounds, with Shaun working as an emergency physician, and Keri as a pediatric emergency physician and healthcare executive. Lindsay has an older brother, Ian.

Despite her parents’ medical expertise, the diagnosis of Jeavons Syndrome when Lindsay was 8 years old presented significant challenges. The disease was difficult to control. Epilepsy was not just a physical hardship for Lindsay but also a mental and emotional challenge. She worried about what her classmates would think of her each time an ambulance came to the school because of her seizures.

To help manage her healthcare, the Carstairs family was fortunate to utilize the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which assists military dependents with special healthcare needs. EFMP allowed them to maintain stability while living in San Diego, California, for Lindsay’s consistent epilepsy care.

Lindsay’s early adversities inspired her to co-found a local International Children’s Advisory Network (iCAN) chapter at Rady Children’s Hospital, where she was a patient.

“I am proud to have started (a chapter) for my community,” Lindsay said. “I dedicated many hours to establishing our chapter. I learned to stay organized and improved my public speaking skills while talking to peers about iCAN and at advocacy events.”

Throughout high school, Lindsay has led multiple advocacy discussions, raised thousands of dollars for local charities, provided community service for children with complex conditions like her own, and earned the President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award after achieving over 300 hours.

After graduating from Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, where she attends high school, Lindsay will attend her “dream” school, Tulane University, as an Honors Scholar in August. She plans to major in political science/international relations and marketing with a minor in Italian. She also wants to be involved in the Center for Public Service at Tulane, continuing her commitment to making a difference.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • President & founding member, Kids-Rady San Diego chapter of the International Children’s Advisory Network (iCAN)
  • President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award 2023
  • Team member/concessions manager, Canyon Crest Academy Comedy Sportz Competitive Improv Team
  • Co-host, Canyon Crest Academy-TV (CCA-TV) weekly school news broadcast
  • Sports editor and staff writer, Raven Review (Canyon Crest Academy school newspaper)
  • Volunteer Summer Intern/Production Director/Camp Counselor, Solana Beach Community Theater/HeyJoJo Productions
  • Co-captain, Canyon Crest Academy varsity girls’ flag football team
  • Volunteer online SAT tutor, College Board/Schoolhouse World (Khan Academy)

Favorite Quote
“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.” – Bob Marley

Taylor Walsh, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Space Force

Taylor Walsh, 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Space Force

Taylor Walsh, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Space Force, learned resiliency at a young age when her parents were stationed in separate locations. She has used those lessons to respond to challenges and help others through mentoring and volunteering.

Taylor, 18, is the daughter of Space Force Col. Mia Walsh and Air Force veteran Mark Walsh. Mark retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2014 from the Air Force after 18 years of service, choosing family stability over continued deployments and separations. The Walsh family has experienced six permanent changes of station throughout their military journey.

Currently, Taylor’s mother is serving in Los Angeles, California, while her father stayed in Arlington, Virginia, so Taylor could finish school. She is a senior at Washington-Liberty High School. Taylor has enjoyed growing roots in Arlington, a city that is home to many service members and their families. She has logged 830 volunteer hours in the past 12 months, much of it through her high school’s volunteer opportunities. She has mentored more than 40 freshmen students and is active in the Key Club, ACLU club, and Student Council Association. While a member of the association, she planned and incentivized more than 2,500 students to participate in annual community outreach programs such as a blood drive and a food drive.

Taylor is also involved in extracurricular activities such as softball and the Arlington Children’s Chorus, showcasing her diverse talents and commitment to her community.

A highlight of her experience as a military child was witnessing her mother being honored at the 2023 Rose Bowl, a moment that filled her with immense pride and served as inspiration for both her and her younger brother.

“The most meaningful memory I have from that day was when my mother stood front and center on the field and was honored for her service,” Taylor said. “I am so incredibly proud of my mom and all her accomplishments.”

After high school, Taylor plans to attend college and major in economics and finance then pursue a law degree. She is eagerly awaiting responses from several prestigious universities, with the University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Georgetown University being her top choices.

Service/Leadership Highlights

  • Student Council President
  • Student Ambassador President (a club dedicated to military and transfer students)
  • Girl Scout Silver Award recipient
  • AP Scholar with Distinction
  • National Honor Society Vice President
  • American Civil Liberties Union Vice President
  • Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year, Washington-Liberty High School Softball
  • Student Advisory Board Member and Youth Peer Ambassador with CYFA (Center for Youth and Family Advocacy)

Favorite Quote
“It is difficult to be disappointed when you are grateful.”—  (Anonymous)

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