Youth chosen to be highlighted during Month of the Military Child

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte N. Brantley-Sisk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Each April, 1.8 million military children are recognized for the contributions and sacrifices they make as part of the military lifestyle.

The 2,500 young dependents at Moody deal with their fair share of separations, deployments, new schools, new homes and other military-related hardships.

To help recognize a few of these young warriors, the Youth Center staff recommended three youth to be highlighted because they are developing their character positively in a way beneficial to the Air Force.

"Military youth are a special group and many of them sacrifice so much," said Nikki Bennett, 23rd Force Support Squadron youth programs chief. "They have moved to several bases, traveled to many countries and experienced multiple deployments. We chose Gavin, Katelyn and Shanel to be highlighted they are well-rounded youth who represent our program and military community in a positive light and promote service before self."

Gavin Gerner, 7 years old
Son of Tech. Sgt. Charity Gerner, 23rd Medical Operations Squadron, and Staff Sgt. Jason Gerner, 372nd Training Squadron

Because Gavin's parents have deployed or been remote a total of seven times, they've spent only about half of his life together as a family. He spends the other half with extended family in Indiana.

"He knows he's the most important thing to us and just because we're gone doesn't mean we don't love him or want to be there with him," said his mother. "He handles it well. He seems to go with the flow and take everything in stride."

As a second-grade student, Gavin already has aspirations to be Commandant of the Marine Corps or to join the Air Force or Army so he can be a part of the military like his parents.

"He will wear one of our ABU hats and march around or play war, and he wants us to call him commander Gavin," said his mother. "I think this helps him feel that he is involved in the military and makes it easier on him if one of us is gone."

Gavin is also extensively involved in other programs and sports, including soccer and roller skating.

"He's a good student, plays sports year-round, and is polite and kind- I could not ask for a better child," said his father. "When at the Youth Center, Gavin helps other kids with homework when he can and always tries to make sure the younger kids are involved with whatever games they are playing. He's a great teammate."

Katelyn Blanton, 6 years old
Daughter of Master Sgt. Kevin Blanton, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. Brooke Blanton, 23rd Logistics Readiness Squadron

As only a first-grader, Katelyn has gone through three deployments and dealt with close friends moving away.

"The constant change and challenges that military children have to face make them stronger individuals," said her father. "The positive and negative experiences they face in their young lives really help prepare them for the world as an adult."

Katelyn stays positive by staying involved with school, sports and art programs.

"Katelyn is an awesome kid and overcomes some of the hardships by staying active in youth programs," said her father. "Since she was young and started going to the Child Development Center and then Youth Center, staff members have commented positively about her and how she helped out with other children. She's an all-around great, well-behaved kid and a true sweetheart."

Shanel Brock, 16 years old
Daughter of Master Sgt. Michelle Brock, 820th Combat Operations Squadron, and Master Sgt. Shawn Brock

"Shanel is one of the great teens who participate in Moody's youth programs," said Ms. Bennett. "She's an excellent young lady who does lots of volunteer work while keeping up a good GPA."

In addition to being involved with other Moody youth, Shanel spends her time cheerleading in a local organization and recently placed first in the champion division in a competition in early April.

"Shanel adheres to our 'Respect Self, Respect Property, and Respect Others' policy with no problem," added Ms. Bennett. "Having outstanding individuals like her involved with our programs allows for peer mentoring to happen. She's a caring, well-rounded individual."

Shanel's favorite time of year is Christmas. During the last holiday season, she spent her time volunteering with the "Shop with a Viking" program in an effort to aid less-fortunate children.

Closing words
Although the above youth and many more have been exposed to being separated from their parents to all of or part of their lives, they have still managed to be a positive influence on those around them.

The Month of the Military Child is about recognizing these children and everything they do.
"It is a true blessing and honor for me to have the opportunity to spend each day with our military youth," said Ms. Bennett. "When I approached the teachers in the program about which youth to select, these three youth were voted as being great examples.

"We're blessed with having hundreds of awesome youth who deserve the same recognition, "she added. "We are thankful for the opportunity to be a positive influence each day in the lives of these youth who sacrifice for their country."