Little Heroes: Academy children recognized for efforts while parents are deployed|
Posted 5/11/2012 Updated 5/11/2012
by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer
5/11/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Eight young family members were recognized at an inaugural Home Front Heroes award ceremony May 7 at the Airman and Family Readiness Center for their outstanding contributions while a parent was deployed.
The children, ages 4-14, received a certificate and American flag medal for their outstanding support and sacrifices that allowed their parents and other service members to continue to serve the nation.
Commanders, chief master sergeants, first sergeants and families of the children attended the event. Recipients were nominated by family members for their unconditional love, strength and endurance in support of the deployment effort.
Air Force retiree Mike Barker proudly watched five of his grandsons receive awards for their fundraising accomplishments. They raised more than $200,000 for the Home Front Cares organization.
"To me they're silent heroes because they've helped so much and not many people know," Barker said. "They're hard workers. It's neat because they like the military and the stories that I tell."
Barker's grandsons -- Michael, Chandler, Dane, Connor and Cooper -- call themselves "Cousins Who Care" and setup a patriotic booth at local air and home shows, Old Colorado City's Territory Days and other salute the troops events.
"I enjoy doing it because I like seeing how it can make people's day," said 14 year-old Michael Barker III, Home Front Heroes recipient. "It's the least that I can do."
The boys hand out patriotic car magnets for donations that have gone towards the Wounded Troops Fund, phone cards for the troops and a handicap accessible mini-van for a local wounded warrior.
"They're amazing kids," Mike Barker said. "When we're out there, they work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the heat. Our goal is to talk to everyone who passes our booth and the longer you talk, the more tired you get but they're out there like troopers."
After the tragedy at Fort Hood in 2009, the boys collected 1,200 yellow ribbons and sent them as messages of hope for soldiers stationed at the base.
"Our message to the soldiers was that we're from Colorado Springs, we care and we're thinking about you," Mike Barker said.
Other recipients were recognized for accomplishments while a parent was deployed such as high grades and involvement in school and help with chores and siblings at home.
"Recognition is an awesome tool, and Home Front Heroes ultimately supports the mission during deployments," said Master Sgt. Lisa Taylor, NCO in charge at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. "While children are doing well in school and helping around the house, the deployed Airmen can rest assured that things are going smoothly at home and can concentrate on the mission at the deployed location."
Col. Michael Addison, the 10th Mission Support Group commander, closed with encouraging words to the kids.
"It's so important for us to recognize our family members who serve alongside of us in the military," Addison said. "We always talk about the military as a team sport and part of that team is our spouses and kids. Thank you for your service as a military kid, we are so impressed with what you are all doing at such a young age."
2012 HOME FRONT HEROES:
Michael Barker III