April is the Month of the Military Child, providing us the opportunity to recognize and show appreciation for military children and the unique challenges they experience.
Numbering almost four million, military children serve their country and communities in many ways. Approximately 75 percent are of school-age, and can move locations an average of 4-9 times before they graduate high school. They experience the absence of one or both parents due to military deployments on a regular basis.
Operation Homefront and other programs recognize the sacrifices military children make and annually honor seven outstanding military children ages 13 to 18. Six represent a branch of the armed forces for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and the added challenge of military family life. A seventh is awarded the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, and goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge.
One of our own San Diego Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet family’s child was recently recognized for her outstanding achievements within the community. Isabelle Richards, a USS Coronado (LCS 4) Blue Crew family member, was named 2018 Navy Military Child of the Year by the national nonprofit organization Operation Homefront.
Isabelle is one of six children in the Richards family. For her family, service is definitely a family business. Her father is Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician James Richards, and her mother is no stranger to service, having served as command Obmudsman dating back 10 years. Four of Isabelle’s brothers have served in the armed forces, and one was also named the 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year for his role in fighting bullying at schools.
Isabelle gives back to her community as a peer counselor at her school and through volunteering at USOs. Isabelle has been dancing competitively for six years and recently started participating in pageants. She leads a Dove Self Esteem project at her school, empowering young women to accept their bodies and themselves. Her involvement in the community and experiences as a leader at such a young age enabled her to combine her personal skills with philanthropy. She founded her own Non-Governmental Organization, Cards and Cupcakes. Cards and Cupcakes provides baked goods and hand written cards to wounded warriors across the country.
“There are so many amazing things each military child does for their community, and I’m beyond honored to be picked for this award,” said Isabelle in a radio interview.
Isabelle’s father, Senior Chief Richards, was deployed for nine months of the past year, and says “it was a great honor to see her and get all the accolades that she was doing emailed and texted to me, and all the nominations that were put in from all the great people who support her.”
All seven children and a parent or guardian are invited to an April gala, where each are recognized for their contributions and receive $10,000, a laptop, and other donated gifts.
Isabelle and her family represent many of the military families here in San Diego, and although only one child is chosen for the Operation Homefront Navy Military Child of the Year award, there are many opportunities to recognize and celebrate the achievements of military children.
USO San Diego recognizes the readiness and resiliency required of each military child, and has programs for military families throughout the month.