ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- Compassion, faith and patriotism earned five youths, each representing a service branch, acclaim from senior leaders during the 5th Annual Military Child of the Year Awards Gala at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City here April 11.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined keynote speaker Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in lauding the young honorees as part of the Defense Department's Month of the Military Child observance.
"These are incredible young men and women who not only do their parents proud, but do their schools proud, their friends proud, their communities proud, and ultimately the nation proud," Dempsey said.
The chairman described the unique challenges military families face due to the inherently nomadic lifestyle that duty dictates.
"What sets military kids apart is that they have to earn a reputation, and then we move them, and they have to re-earn it, and we move them again and they have to re-earn it again," Dempsey said. "By the time they're done ... they've had to re-establish who they are, multiple times."
But starting over, the chairman said, creates the very strength from which children of military families flourish.
"It makes them stronger, it makes them more adaptable, it makes them more resilient, and it makes us damned proud of them," Dempsey said.
The chairman also recognized the service members who protect the freedoms that enable Americans of all ages to serve their communities and choose their paths in life.
"Our young men and women in uniform are actually going to pull this off," the chairman said of his recent visit to Afghanistan, where the drawdown is on track. "Because they have confidence, they're instilling that confidence in their Afghan partners and they are instilling, in turn, confidence in the Afghan people."
The chairman expressed confidence in the next generation -- nearly 2 million military children -- who learn early on the concept of service and sacrifice.
"There's no other country in the world where you can be whatever you want to be," Dempsey said.
Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors, hosted the event.
This year's Military Child of the Year honorees include:
Army -- Nicole Marie Daly, 17, of Fort Lee, Va., who despite nine moves and three high schools is ranked in the top of her class with a 4.7 grade point average. Daly volunteers at events in support of the College Scholarship Fund for the Fort Lee Area Spouse's Club. Her parents are West Point graduates.
Marine Corps - Abigail MaryRose Perdew, 18, Kingdom of Bahrain, has volunteered more than 200 hours this year including math tutoring. She carries a 4.1 GPA. Her mother, Jessica, is a former Marine and her father Jason is a lieutenant colonel with Marine Corps Forces Central Command.
Navy - Alexander Ray Burch, 18, Grand Forks, N.D., has volunteered more than 400 hours this year and produced a video for an anti-bullying campaign. His father, David, is a retired Navy chief who works for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Air Force - Mark Michael Newberry, 18, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, carries a 4.2 GPA and has moved for his 10th time. He teaches Sunday school, visits shut-ins every other weekend and volunteers at the local VA thrift store. His father, Brian, is the wing commander at Fairchild Air Force Base and his mother is a registered nurse.
Coast Guard - Amanda Wimmersberg, 18, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., carries a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the Peer Leadership program which helps freshmen acclimate to their new schools and assists them against bullying. Her mother, Christina, is a recently retired Coast Guard lieutenant commander and her father, Richard, is a commander with the U.S. Coast Guard's Force Readiness Command Detached Duty Navy Warfare Development Command in Norfolk, Va.