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The five 2013 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year award winners are “an incredible group of young men and women,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I'm glad I didn't have to compete with them to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Dempsey said at an April 11 awards dinner honoring the children from each branch of service.
The award winners “not only do their parents proud but do their schools proud, their friends proud and their communities proud,” he said.
“You represent the best our country has to offer. You represent all the other amazing accomplished military kids out there,” said Jim Knotts, chief executive officer of Operation Homefront.
Dempsey said the constant, frequent moves that are a staple of military life can be challenging for kids.
They “have to earn a reputation, then we move them. Then they have to re-earn it. Then we move them again, then they have to re-earn it again. … They have to re-establish their bona fides, their credentials and who they are multiple times,” he said.
However, he believes this experience makes military children stronger, more adaptable and more resilient, he said.
Dempsey led the room in singing “Happy Birthday” to the youngest winner, Nicole Daly, who turned 17 that day. Her soldier father is stationed at Fort Lee, Va.
Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of the late president and retired Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, said she was humbled and touched to be part of the event, and feels more comfortable about her own future knowing the country will be in the hands of such youths.
In addition to both of her grandfathers, Eisenhower's father, uncle, brother and ex-husband were in the military. She carries on her grandfather Dwight's legacy as the president and CEO of People to People International, founded by her grandfather to enhance cross-cultural communication within and between communities and nations.