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Hannah Marie Resiliently Pursues her Dreams

By Operation Homefront

March 30, 2023

Hannah Marie Tokiwa Named 2023 Military Child of the Year® for Marine Corps

Hannah Marie 2023 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year award recipient
Hannah Marie, 2023 Military Child of the Year® for the Marines

As the new kid in town, Hannah Marie Tokiwa was anxious about starting high school in Pearl City, Hawaii. But Hannah Marie, who is Operation Homefront’s 2023 Military Child of the Year® for the Marine Corps, marched in – literally – and bonded with other members of the marching band, became a leader in school organizations, and one of the top students in Pearl City High School’s Class of 2023.

“The transition from middle school to high school was a rough time for me because we had just moved to Hawaii,” Hannah Marie said. “The band director of my new school suggested that I join the marching band, so on my second day in the state my mom drove me from our hotel in Waikiki to school for practice. I was greeted by a ton of welcoming people who helped me learn what to do and were happy to have me join them.”

The daughter of Amanda and William Tokiwa, Hannah Marie, and her family have moved every three years with her father’s Marine Corps job. He is a master gunnery sergeant assigned to the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. The six moves in Hannah Marie’s lifetime have included posts in Japan, California, New York, and North Carolina.

New York City was one of her favorite places to live, though Hawaii has now become her number one location. Still, she learned a lot in the Big Apple.

“Moving there was such a culture shock, as I was suddenly faced with more diversity than I had ever seen in a single place before,” she said. “In my years there, I learned to appreciate the differences in the various cultures and beliefs of the people around me, which helped me to become a better person. My family also got to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Time Square Ball Drop, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which were super cool, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

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Hannah Marie 2023 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year award recipient

Since moving to Hawaii her family has adopted the local cuisine as their own.

“Since living here we’ve eaten a lot of local foods, like kalua pig, poke, spam musubi, saimin, malasadas, and more,” Hannah Marie said.

Through routine moves and starting over in different schools, she has learned to embrace the inevitability of change and maintains friendships around the world. She is active in Girl Scouts and works on school and community garden and beautification projects with her school’s Key Club. She is also a teen advocate for the state chapter of the Hemophilia Foundation.

Living with a health condition that imposes boundaries on physical activity is another way Hannah Marie differs from her peers, and that has also forged her resilience. When first diagnosed at age 6, she felt special having an uncommon condition. In adolescence, that shifted to resentment.

While living in New York, she connected with others who shared similar health challenges. That inspired her to embrace her differences and focus on building awareness. Through her efforts, Hannah Marie has raised over $3,000 for research and has spoken with her state lawmakers.

Hannah Marie is proud of her family’s history of service, which dates to her great-great-grandfather’s time with the Army in World War I. Her great-grandfather earned four Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart in World War II, and her grandfather retired from the Army after 27 years of service.

She plans to study forensic science after participating in the 2021 Honolulu FBI Student Academy.

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Hannah Marie first became interested in forensic science as a fourth-grader through lessons held by her school’s gifted and talented program.

“They did a bunch of lessons on simple forensic science like blood spatter, fingerprints, and shoe print plasters. It got me really interested in science and criminology,” she said. “During the height of the pandemic, I started watching NCIS, which got me re-interested in the forensic science field. I ended up applying to the 2021 Honolulu FBI Student Academy and was one of the few chosen to participate. We learned about various FBI tasks and requirements and got a first-hand look at some of the tools and techniques FBI scientists use to help solve cases. I emerged from the FBI building not only with cool merchandise but also a solidified resolve in having a career in forensic science.”

Service/Leadership Highlights
Solo and Ensemble Contest, excellent rating
• National Spanish Exam Level 1, silver medalist
• Teen Impact Award recipient
• Honor Roll
• District Key Club member recognition, bronze award
• All-American D-Day Band
• O’ahu Band Directors Association Select Band
• Earned the Global Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish

Favorite Quote
“You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” – Star Wars: Episode 1

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