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2018 semi-finalist for National Guard Military Child of the Year® Award: Aiden Hunter

Washington State National Guard Youth, Aiden Hunter, is a semi-finalist for Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year. Courtesy photo

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Washington State National Guard Youth, Aiden Hunter (age 16), from Onalaska, Washington, was recently selected as one of the 2018 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year Award semi-finalists.

"I have gone from being served by military programs to now being a leader and a mentor to other military youth," said Hunter.  "I want to keep America a land worth defending, a land worth being proud of, and most of all, a land worth the sacrifices of our fallen servicemembers.

Before the semi-finalists were announced, there were 35 finalists initially selected by a panel of judges chosen by Operation Homefront's senior leadership.

Six semi-finalists are then selected to recognize outstanding young people between the ages of 13 and 18 for their superior and positive support and impacts made within their military families, their schools and in their communities.

Each military youth member represents a different branch of the Armed Forces -- the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard -- and each representative will receive an award.

Criteria for nominations are typically based upon volunteerism, scholarships, leaderships and other extracurricular involvement.

"It's really exciting to see Aiden submitted for this award. He has a very big heart for others and volunteer service has been a huge part of his life while he was homeschooled, through church, and as he has moved onto college," said Aiden's mother, Vanessa. "He is very humble about his service and it is really an honor to see him being recognized in such a profound way."

The final award each year for Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation® presented by Booz Allen Hamilton, typically goes to the military youth that has best highlighted the power of innovative thinking. Typically, the military youth has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge.

Aiden represents the entire National Guard youth as a semi-finalist and his achievements in education led to his nomination and selection as a semi-finalist. As a 16-year-old in college, it is not too difficult to imagine how he's leading the charge for accomplishments as a military youth member.

"Aiden's fast track to school could be considered innovative. As he pushed to start college at 12 years old, he has taken this opportunity very seriously," added Vanessa. "He is very aware that he is not only an example for other young learners, but he is also paving his own way."  

Aiden is not even 17 years old yet, but already has a college Associate's Degree from Lower Columbia Community College under his belt and is now attending Saint Martin's University.

Aiden and the other semi-finalist award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C., to be recognized at this year's April 19 Operation Homefront Gala, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards.

All semi-finalists are set to receive $10,000, a laptop computer, and other donated gifts.

Even with all of the praise and attention, Aiden still remains focused on affecting the lives of younger military youth members and continues to utilize his education in remarkable ways.

"Aiden feels his success as a student is important to ensuring that the same opportunities be extended to other young learners," added his mother Vanessa. "Now a successful graduate from Lower Columbia Community College, I am sure they would gladly take the risks encompassed with accepting such aged students after witnessing, not only Aiden's academic success, but also his contributions as an active member of his college community."

The Military Child of the Year® Award provides a lifelong source of pride for each recipient and provides the military youth with amazing opportunities to meet senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

"We are (Mom and I) both stronger and wiser, having gone through the struggles of deployment and we've been able to help others through those struggles that we overcame," added Aiden. "It is powerful seeing things go full circle where the ‘helped' now becomes the ‘helpers'." 

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