Samantha Grab, our 2020 Military Child of the Year® for the Air Force, has brought light and happiness to so many around her through her music and positive attitude, especially during tough times. Her family’s nickname for her is Sunshine.
She is the daughter of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Andy” Grab and Michelle Grab. Samantha, 18, grew up as one of three siblings but four years ago a tragedy changed their family forever when her older brother Nick, then 17, died by suicide.
His death was a challenge for everyone. At only 14, Samantha became aware of her own depression and ADHD. She relied heavily on her mother, who she says is her role model. Her mom helped them all cope with her father’s 20 months of deployments and the eight moves throughout his career.
Samantha also finds solace in music. She began playing the alto saxophone in fifth grade and also plays the French horn, piano, ukulele, and drums. A senior at O’Fallon Township High School, she was hand-picked by her music teacher for the school’s mentorship program. She also assists the fifth-grade music teacher in the classroom and through private lessons for the students.
Samantha has performed at a variety of military events, including performing the national anthem and the official Air Force song during a promotion ceremony for her father and then again during his retirement ceremony at Busch Stadium.
“I felt the happiest and most proud (of being a military child) when my Dad came home from his deployments,” she said. “It was very hard when he was gone, and I was filled with so much joy and excitement each time he came home.”
On one occasion, her dad surprised Samantha and her family in what she calls “the most amazing way.” He was deployed to Korea and not expected home for several months. Samantha, along with her mom, her brother, and oldest sister Elizabeth, was visiting family in Illinois. When they went to their favorite bakery Samantha’s dad was waiting for them behind the counter.
“Our minds were so preoccupied by what to eat that we did not realize our dad was standing right in front of us taking our order!” She said. “My jaw dropped, and I immediately ran up to hug my dad.”
Samantha enjoys helping others. She has volunteered more than 300 hours in the past 12 months, including as one of a few select retreat leaders with the Helping Open People’s Eyes (HOPE) program, an organization that helps teens overcome challenges of bullying, stereotypes, depression and difficulties at school and home.
She plans on attending Illinois State University and studying psychology so she can help children and teens struggling with mental health issues.
When she’s not busy with color guard performances, marching band competitions or playing music, Samantha enjoys watching movies, reading, drawing, cooking, and spending time with friends and family, especially her baby sister Sarah and her niece Marcy.
Favorite quote: “All I can be is me, whoever that is.” -Bob Dylan.
•Helping Open People’s Eyes (HOPE)
•OTHS Mentorship Program
•Christ Church Children’s Ministry
•Karla Smith Behavioral Health
•Scott Air Force Base Centennial
•OTHS Marching Band
•OTHS Jazz Ensemble
Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.
Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.
Read previous 2020 recipient profiles: