MFSC honors military children

Homefront Hero Award for Excellence recipients, Military and Family Support Center staff stand with Capt. Jeff Bernard, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Kristen Wong

Life & Leisure Editor, Ho‘okele

More than 50 military children received the Homefront Hero Award for Excellence in a ceremony hosted by Military and Family Support Center (MFSC) Hickam April 26.

The award was open to children of service members stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). Military parents nominated their children for this award, which included a certificate and medal. Capt. Jeff Bernard, JBPHH commander, also posed for a photo with each awardee.

Cake was served after the ceremony.

“Working and presenting this event has been an absolute pleasure,” said Mallory Carmichael, a work and family life specialist with MFSC.

“The military children deserve so much for what they go through every day. I am so proud to be a part of the military community and be in the position I am now to recognize these outstanding children.”

In 2012, MFSC’s Deployment Support Program at JBPHH created the award to recognize the children of deployed service members. MFSC decided to host the awards every April, since it is the Month of the Military Child.

Award recipient Benjamin DeVries receives cake at the conclusion of the ceremony.

“Home front Heroes is not a competition with a winner; it is more of a recognition ceremony,” said Carmichael, the event coordinator and master of ceremonies at the event.

“This event is an avenue for parents and community members to honor the sacrifices children make and additional duties they take on when their parent is deployed.”

The award was a surprise for Alejandro Pickart, 16, whose father is in the Air Force. While his father has been deployed for as long as a year, Pickart stayed busy with his youth group, church, friends and advanced placement classes at school.

Award recipient Leila Harrison and her family pose for a photo at the conclusion of the Homefront Heroes Ceremony at MFSC Hickam, April 26.

“I feel like my contributions aren’t tantamount to the award,” Pickart said. “I was just doing what I felt was right while my dad was away. It just felt kind of natural. I’m grateful that my parents thought it was worth all that it was.”

Pickart, who is currently in Navy JROTC, plans to join the Air Force like his father, as well as his sister, who was accepted into the Air Force Academy.

“This event means a lot to service members because they get a chance to show appreciation to their children for adapting to a military lifestyle that they did not choose,” Carmichael said.

An award recipient poses for a photo while having cake.
Photos by MC3 Jessica O. Blackwell

“Deployments can be challenging for children but they also offer opportunities to stretch themselves and become more resilient.

The ceremony is meaningful for the children because they get to hear their parent’s description of their accomplishments read out loud and they see the community leadership come together to support them. They are also surrounded by their peers who have similar experiences so it increases community morale and cohesion,” she added.

“This may seem small to many but this is huge to me and for my children,” said YNC Karen Tower, of U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“I think that both spouses and children are often overlooked when it comes to the sacrifice and resiliency they put forth for their loved ones’ service.”

Tower said it’s important to recognize that service members require the support of their families in order to perform their duties, and recognizing those family members and their sacrifices is very important.

Tower said her three children were extremely excited to have their names called, pictures taken, and be presented a medal while being publicly recognized with a citation.

“They could not wait to tell their dad (who’s deployed) that they are heroes,” she said.

Cassandra DeWitt was among the award recipients. Since her father joined the military when she was 8 years old, he has had many temporary duties (TDY) and has been deployed to Afghanistan.

Now 16, DeWitt is an honor roll student, a volunteer at Hickam Pharmacy and the American Red Cross, and is heavily involved in activities at the Aliamanu Military Reservation Teen Center. Although her mother helps keep the family busy each day, DeWitt misses her father and worries for his safety.

“The true hero is my dad and all the Soldiers who are sacrificing and protecting our country for our freedom,” DeWitt said.

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Category: Life & Leisure