HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Jamal Braxton, the 2017 Operation Homefront Air Force Military Child of the Year Award recipient, has excelled in multiple varsity sports at Northridge High School in Layton and holds a bright future with his acceptance into the U.S. Air Force Academy, but Braxton likes to focus most on his experiences as a volunteer with the Red Cross and the Airmen and Family Readiness Center while living abroad in Germany and during his last three years living here.
What started out as a summer opportunity during middle school while living at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, had turned into six years of volunteer efforts and leadership positions including Red Cross of Northern Utah Youth Co-President, Youth Co-Chair for Services to Armed Forces and Youth Co-Chair for International Services, Student Staff for Red Cross Leadership Development Camp, and Member for the American Red Cross of Northern Utah Board of Directors.
Since both organizations were available in Germany and Utah, Braxton’s service opportunities didn’t end when his family transferred here. Braxton continued helping others and realized he could impact others his age. “I help youth realize their potential in becoming a leader themselves and grow into someone they didn’t think they could become,” Braxton said, reflecting on a pivotal experience while serving recently as a leader at a Red Cross Leadership Development Camp. “My eyes were opened to the different skills everyone has so that every youth can become a leader in their own way.”
Braxton says living at various Air Force bases and participating in worldwide service organizations has helped him meet a wide variety of people. “I’ve discovered that every single helping hand is welcome in these organizations and I know I can keep volunteering wherever I live,” Braxton said.
Operation Homefront realizes military life is not always easy for children, so their Military Child of the Year Awards aim to celebrate their resiliency and leadership. One winner from each branch of military service is recognized for their volunteerism, leadership, and extracurricular involvement during their time as a military child. Each winner receives a monetary stipend and a trip to Washington D.C. for a special recognition ceremony.
“Our seven recipients have faced many challenges associated with military life and continually thrive,” said Operation Homefront Program Manager Jenny Valderas. “They volunteer their time in their local communities, all while succeeding academically. We are awed by their achievements and they should be very proud of all they have accomplished at such a young age.”
Braxton hopes he can encourage other teens to make a difference in their communities since organizations like the Red Cross rely heavily on volunteers. “They may think it’s hard to go out of their comfort zone (to volunteer), but it can be healthy and allows them to experience new things and have a larger mindset,” Braxton said.
Braxton attributes his service-mindedness to his mom, Ahllam Braxton, who made sure to instill volunteerism at a young age. “My husband and I have always felt strongly that human beings need to be respectful, so we volunteered a lot as a family even when Jamal was young,” Braxton said, recalling their experiences serving at an elderly home when Jamal was just a three-year-old. “It was important for us to raise kids who are willing to help out each other because you never know when you may need a helping hand.”