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Press Release

Operation Homefront announces 2021 Military Child of the Year® semifinalists

By Operation Homefront

January 12, 2021

For media inquiries, please contact Michael Lahrman at Michael.Lahrman@operationhomefront.org or call (210) 834-7823.

SAN ANTONIO — Operation Homefront, the national nonprofit whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families, is pleased to announce that 95 military children from across the U.S. and overseas have advanced as semifinalists in Operation Homefront’s 2021 Military Child of the Year® Awards program. Operation Homefront has served America’s military families since 2002.

This year marks the 13th anniversary of this very special program and is the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of America’s military children, reflecting the positive impact they have made on their families, schools, and communities, even as the nation faced unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Military Child of the Year® Award is a lifelong source of pride for the recipients. Participating in the program provides them with amazing opportunities to connect with senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children. 

Finalists for this year’s branch awards will be selected in February by a panel of independent, volunteer judges and the innovation finalists will be selected by award sponsor Booz Allen Hamilton, a global technology and management consulting firm. The final eight award recipients will be announced in March and each will receive $10,000, a laptop, and other donated gifts. A celebration program is currently scheduled for April 8, 2021; details regarding the celebrations will be released in March and any events will follow CDC and state health guidelines.

Seven Military Child of the Year® Award recipients will represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and for the first time, Space Force — and are selected for their excellence in scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, and extracurricular activities.

The eighth award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. This award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge. The Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation recipient will work virtually with a team of employees from Booz Allen Hamilton who will provide project support.

Pierce Corson, the 2020 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year®, said the award meant a lot to him as a member of a military family. “Operation Homefront does a fantastic job at recognizing the challenges associated with growing up as a military child, and I’m very thankful for that. I am exceptionally proud of my father’s military service, and to be able to win Military Child of the Year and pay him back in some small way was a very rewarding experience for me. It felt great to be a representative of military children everywhere, knowing that we all share a common experience.” Corson is currently studying Mandarin in Taiwan, through a State Department scholarship program, and has received a Jefferson Scholarship to the University of Virginia.

2020 Innovation Award winner Kainath Kamil, whose parent serves with the Navy at Camp Pendleton, was featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune. As a junior at Oceanside’s Mission Vista High School, Kamil had conducted intensive biomedical research with a focus on the mechanisms of addiction.  Army.mil spotlighted Fionnuala Mahoney as she received the Army branch award, and Air Force branch award recipient Samantha Grab’s win was seen in news publications across Missouri.

The following are all the 2021 Military Child of the Year® Award semifinalists by service branch. Semifinalists for the 2021 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation are also designated:

Army
Elena Ashburn, 17, Cooper City, Fla.

Aurora Bauer, 13, Deridder, La.

Javier Cortez Jr., 17, Robbinsville, N.J.

Margaret Fontaine, 17, Fortson, Ga.

Ashley Gorrell, 17, Fort Polk, La.

Kaleea Korunka, 17, Chesapeake, Va.

Faith Magalong, 17, Hill AFB, Utah

Matthew Oh, 16, Camp Humphreys, South Korea

Madison Owen-Amundsen, 18, Park City, Utah

Avery Petty, 18, Montgomery, Texas

Caleb Pipes, 17, Kailua, Hawaii

Dominic Ross, 17, Deridder, La.

Anya Ruzicka, 17, Midlothian, Va.

  • Ruzicka is also one of the 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Olivia Starz, 17, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Marisol Wentling, 16, Fountain, Colo.

Marine Corps
Jake Alchin, 17, New Bern, N.C.

Tzion Caffee, 16, Yulee, Fla.

Alison Carrillo-Matias, 17, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Sierra Charleston, 17, Oceanside, Calif.

Eleanor David, 17, Falls Church, Va.

Cameron Davis, 17, Jacksonville, N.C.

  • Davis is also one of the 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Haley Hine, 13, Temecula, Calif.

Olivia Koch, 13, Portsmouth, R.I.

Tatihana, Loya, 17, Swansboro, N.C.

Abby Narra, 15, West Islip, N.Y.

Iain Nicol, 14, Carlisle, Pa.

Tristian Romero, 17, Oceanside, Calif.

Mateo Starace, 13, Vienna, Va.

Yhatti Stokes-Koehl, 17, San Marcos, Calif.

Michayla Wittner, 17, Jacksonville, N.C.

Navy
Avery Alfonzo, 16, San Diego, Calif.

Dasia Bandy, 18, Chesapeake, Va.

Alessandra Besachio, 16, Hubert, N.C.

Juliana Conza, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Annalise Dolby, 15, Stuttgart, Germany

Breana Fay, 17, Chantilly, Va.

Madison Frisbie, 17, Honolulu, Hawaii

Lauren Garrett, 17, Pace, Fla.

John Grady, 18, Chula Vista, Calif.

Anna Martinez, 17, McAllen, Texas

Gabrielle Mussulman-Watson, 18, Kansas City, Mo.

Ryan Pettit, 17, Papillion, Neb.

Harlow Thomas, 17, Honolulu, Hawaii

Keira Vida White, 17, Rota, Spain

Timya Young, 16, Jacksonville, Fla.

Air Force
Amayahlidwina Alenepi, 16, Travis AFB, Calif.

Katherine Ballard, 17, Navarre, Fla.

Margaret Bartlow, 13, San Antonio, Texas

Ashtyn Belanger, 18, Burkburnett, Texas

Blake Cheater, 17, Meridian, Miss.

Brianna Cooley, 15, Bossier City, La.

Jennifer Cullen, 18, Columbus, Ohio

Taylor Curro, 18, Carrollton, Va.

Nyah Gray, 16, Buda, Texas

Grace Longyear, 17, Mascoutah, Ill.

Jenna Moreland, 17, Knob Noster, Mo.

Emma Remley, 17, Papillion, Neb.

Aislin Stanford, 16, Papillion, Neb.

Kyle Stevenson, 17, Stuttgart, Germany

Alexandra Vincent, 16, Prosper, Texas

Coast Guard
Luke Carter, 16, Melbourne, Fla.

Liam Cooper, 18, Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Kasyn Grissom, 17, Long Beach, Miss.

Pualena Heather, 17, Woodbridge, Va.

Kendra Hiigel, 13, McKinleyville, Calif.

Olivia Kilmer, 18, South Berwick, Maine

Layne O’Connell, 17, Jamestown, R.I.

Sareyah Rivers, 15, Virginia Beach, Va.

Addison Rowland, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Jenna Scalia, 17, Stevensville, Md.

Matthew Timm, 14, St. Augustine, Fla.

National Guard
Mabelle Boehlke, 17, Reedsburg, Wis.

Easton Christiansen, 17, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Emelia Clark, 17, Panama City, Fla.

Maya Cornitius, 14, League City, Texas

Christian Gonzalez, 17, Fresno, Calif.

Jackson Harris, 18, Warrior, Ala.

Audrey Hartgraves, 15, League City, Texas

Taylor McDonald, 18, North Providence, R.I.

Maria McIntosh, 16, Urbana, Ohio

Ethan Mulligan, 16, Haven, Kan.

Lily Palfrey, 17, Indiana, Pa.

Elise Puliafico, 17, West Bridgewater, Mass.

Jonathan Spoula, 15, Baldwin City, Kan.

Emma Wilson, 18, Carlisle, Penn.

John Wilson, 18, Carlisle, Penn.

Space Force*
Lynaia Montoya, 13, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Joshua Wouden, 13, Colorado Springs, Colo.

*This is the inaugural year for inviting nominations from the newest military service, the U.S. Space Force. We anticipate more nominees from this branch as it becomes more established.

Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation

Shay Barber, 18, Syracuse, Utah, Air Force

Cameron Davis, 17, Jacksonville, N.C., Marine Corps

Emma Dozier, 13, Apex, N.C., Army

Emma Remley, 17, Papillion, Neb., Air Force

Anya Ruzicka, 17, Midlothian, Va., Army

Rodina Sabeha, 17, Queens, N.Y., National Guard

Carly Swaney, 17, Pleasant Prairie, Wis., Navy

Griffin Reid Thompson, 17, Boiling Springs, S.C., Navy

Ellington Walters III, 17, Holt, Mich., National Guard

Alicia Williamson, 17, Bowie, Md., Army

More information about the Military Child of the Year® Awards is available at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

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 About Operation Homefront: Founded in 2002, Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity oversight groups, over 90 percent of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs that support tens of thousands of military families each year. Operation Homefront provides critical financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing and family support services to prevent short-term needs from turning into chronic, long-term struggles. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the support from thousands of volunteers, Operation Homefront proudly serves America’s military families. For more information, visit OperationHomefront.org

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