Every year, the team at Operation Homefront looks forward to celebrating our military kids. From all corners of the United States and from far flung areas of the world, we hear from people who are excited to share their thoughts and experiences with a military child in their community, and who want the rest of the world to hear about them. And so begins the journey to select recipients for our Military Child of the Year® Award.
Let’s just say…the selection process for our committee is tough. Tough, but humbling, rewarding and energizing. We wish we could recognize more than the six awardees, because there are so many we can choose from. Every nomination highlights someone extraordinary. Their personality, who they are, really comes through in their achievements and recommendations. It was a challenge for our selection panel to make a final decision for the six recipients, but they fully admit that it was a good challenge to face.
As we approach the date for our awards gala in D.C., we’d like to invite you to get to know this year’s recipients and help us celebrate how extraordinary they are. We kick off today with our Military Child of the Year for the United States Air Force, Sarah Hesterman.
“Her humility, kindness, and candor inspire everyone she meets.”
Military children bloom where they are planted, and Sarah Hesterman is the very definition of this belief. When Sarah’s family was assigned to Qatar, she was propelled into a strange new world. But rather than stay within the confines of her military community, she stretched her wings. And she soared. She plunged into learning local customs and language, impressing those around her with her intellect and curiosity. She then took her new knowledge and used it to build bridges between allies, adult and children. Empowered by the impact she was already having on her world, and propelled by concerns of the challenges faced by girls the world over, Sarah started the Qatar chapter of The United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up program, dedicated to reaching out and supporting the needs and dreams of adolescent girls where they need it the most. That path took her eventually to presenting at summits, lobbying Congress and being selected as a Malala Girl hero.
“To say Sarah will be somebody great one day, that she’ll do and accomplish amazing things goes without saying, and takes away from the fact she is already an incredible young woman doing astonishing things now,” said Sarah Kinzer, a military spouse in Qatar who observed Sarah’s groundbreaking efforts for two years and nominated her for the award.
In addition to being an outstanding student of the world, Sarah is also an outstanding student in the classroom, maintaining a 3.8 GPA while taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses. And if all that wasn’t enough to wow us, she plays two instruments (clarinet and violin) and is a very good golfer.
Sarah plans to continue to pursue the cause of empowering girls on a global scale by working with the United Nations in promoting gender equality and developing her own nonprofit organization that provides access to education and resources for adolescent girls in situations of conflict.
Sarah is the only child of Lt. General John W. and Dr. Jennifer Hesterman. Her father is currently the Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia. He has been serving for 32 years. Her mother is a retired Air Force Colonel with 21 years of service and is currently a professor and author.
About Military Child of the Year: Recipients of the Military Child of the Year award are military children who have demonstrated themselves as exceptional citizens while facing the challenges of military family life. The average Military Child of the Year® Award Nominee has moved five times or more, experienced at least one parent deploy for 18 months or more, all while maintaining above average grades (often with honors), volunteering with service groups an average of 75 hours during the year, excelling in sports and theatre and /or music and holding leadership positions in school and community groups. The recipients are chosen by a selection panel made up of active-duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members.