Two local area children whose parents are stationed here have been selected as semi-finalists for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year.
The two finalists are Karrington Pryor, age 13 and Caylin Taylor, age 8.
Karrington is the daughter of Tech. Sgt. Abbi Cabeen, 923rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, section chief, and step-daughter of Master Sgt. Mark Cabeen, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron production superintendent.
Caylin is the daughter of Tech. Sgt. Ryan Taylor, 355th Civil Engineering Squadron, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Readiness and Emergency Management Flight.
The MCOY Award is presented by Operation Homefront to outstanding military children who demonstrate resiliency, leadership and achievement. Recipients representing each branch of the armed services receive their award at a Washington, D.C. Gala celebration in April each year.
The recipient of the MCOY Award for each branch of service will be announced in March. Each award recipient will receive $5,000 and will be flown, with a parent or guardian, to Washington, D.C. for a special recognition ceremony on April 10.
Karrington learned from her mother she was selected as a semi-finalist for the MCOY Award in a unique way.
“I showed Karrington her name on the list of semi-finalists on the internet and that’s when she really freaked out,” Cabeen said.
Karrington described her emotions when her mom surprised her with the news.
“I was in my kitchen when my mom called me over to the computer,” Karrington said. “I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless. I was just very excited and nervous at the same time, because I couldn’t believe I was picked.”
Cabeen expressed how she felt about her daughter being selected as a MCOY Award semi-finalist.
“I am very, very proud of her,” said Cabeen. “I serve my country wearing a uniform, and she serves our community, her school and our family by doing such amazing things. What she can do as a 13-year-old, I can only fathom to try and do as a 34-year-old.”
Karrington is involved in many extra-curricular activities, to include community service and volunteer work.
“I feel like I help the community out a lot,” said Karrington. “I do community service like picking up trash around the neighborhood. I ran a snack bar for my brother’s football team where I put in 300 volunteer hours over the summer.”
Aside from the leadership Karrington demonstrates in her volunteer work. She shows resiliency as well.
“Karrington actually has three active duty parents,” said Cabeen. “Her father and I divorced and I went on to marry another active duty parent. So Karrington doesn’t just go through the challenges of a simplistic traditional home. Her dad is stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, so she goes and visits him on breaks from school.”
D-M’s second semi-finalist, Caylin, was entered in the running for the MCOY Award six months ago. Her father wrote a statement to Operation Homefront that emphasized her involvement within the community and the resiliency she possesses at such a young age.
“I’ve deployed two or three times since she’s been born,” Sergeant Taylor said. “On top of that, I cross- trained into a four and a half month tech school and attended the NCO academy, so I’ve been gone a lot. She hasn’t necessarily suffered, but she’s been affected by it. For her to have resilience while being involved in so much, I thought she should be recognized for it.”
Caylin had no idea that she was entered into the award selection process by her father. When Sergeant Taylor found out that she had been selected as a semi-finalist, he told her about it immediately.
“Once I found out she was selected I sat her down and said ‘You have been great and supportive for me while I support our country,’” said Sergeant Taylor. “She was so excited and happy. My thought process when entering her was that in the military we are awarded and recognized when we do well. So I just related that idea to her situation.”
Being a military kid, Caylin learned an early, but difficult lesson in resiliency.
“A tough time for Caylin was when her best friend Hannah received a permanent change of station to another Air Force base,” said Sergeant Taylor. “Sometimes when she gets upset, she says ‘I miss Hannah.’ I just have to explain to her that her daddy had to go defend the country from another location.”
Sergeant Taylor explained why Caylin is different from other children her age.
“She’s very articulate for an 8-year-old,” said Sergeant Taylor. “I always say she’s 8 going on 20, because she is so mature for her age. She’s the type of kid who’ll get involved in adult conversations. If my wife and I are discussing plans of some sort to do as a family, Caylin will explain what she wants to do and why. She is always engaged.”
Caylin also stays engaged in and out of school as well.
“She goes to Frank Borman Elementary on base, where she is a member of the student council,” said Sergeant Taylor. “We also go to the “All Workmen Are Not Ashamed” program at the base chapel which aims to bring families together spiritually through gospel studies.”
When Caylin and Karrington are not engaged in extracurricular activities they love to have fun just like other girls in their age group.
“I love to have sleepovers,” said Karrington. “I even like to go off-roading in the desert with my family’s all-terrain vehicle.”
“Caylin is very active,” said Sergeant Taylor. “She loves to play with her friends, but she likes trying new things too. When I go golfing, she always asks if she can go with me. I can’t take her yet, so I just tell her ‘Maybe in a couple of years.’”
When it comes to utilizing the $5,000 prize for receiving the MCOY Award, both girls’ hearts seem to be in the right place.
“I would probably put aside a little bit to go shopping,” said Karrington. “I would definitely save the rest for college and a car.”
“I’d have to say that Caylin’s number one answer would be to buy a horse, but she would also want to donate to less fortunate people,” said Sergeant Taylor.
The semi-finalists will be interviewed individually by Operation Homefront staff. Award recipients will be chosen by a committee, to include active-duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veterans service organization leadership, teachers, and community members.