By Story by Audrey Hill and Capt. Joshua Shaver, USARECFebruary 11, 2014
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Feb. 11, 2014) -- Twelve year old Zachary Shaver was selected as one of the semi-finalists for the 2014 Army Military Child of the Year Award, representing the thousands of military children who have demonstrated themselves as exceptional citizens while facing the challenges of military family life.
Zachary, the son of Christie Shaver and Capt. Joshua Shaver, who is the U.S. Army 3rd Recruiting Brigade Headquarters Commandant, at Fort Knox, Ky., was selected from over 1000 nominees among the five service branches to represent the Army.
Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization that sponsors the Military Child of the Year Award. There are 155 semi-finalists representing all five service branches, in which the award will be given to one outstanding military child from each branch of Service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. This year's semi-finalists are a reflection of the diversity inherent through military service, representing 25 states, Puerto Rico, and five overseas locations.
"Zachary has worked very hard, like most other military kids, to maintain his school work and to show his patriotism and loyalty to the Army and his country," said Capt. Shaver. "I am very humbled at the work he has done to give back to the community and to have the opportunity to represent all the Army children will be a wonderful experience for him. I told him that being recognized as a semi-finalist is an honor in itself and he understands that.
"This recognition didn't come from just turning in homework on time, playing sports, and raking leaves around Fort Knox. It comes with the burdens of the PCSs, changing schools, and a heavy heart," said Shaver.
Shaver continued, "Zach was very close to 1st Lt. Todd Lambka before [Lambka and I deployed together to Afghanistan] and the two became "battle buddies." They read books, ate lunch, and went to the shooting ranges together and just hung out at work after school leading up to the deployment. After Todd was killed in action last year while deployed in Afghanistan with me, Zachary had to process that, and with the help of his mom and the Lambka family, he was able to develop coping mechanisms and ultimately he made a trip to West Point, NY, for the interment ceremony at the request of Todd's father, Brian.
"The past 15 months have definitely been a journey for Zach and he has found ways to endure and stay focused. As a family, we try to support everyone in ways that are appropriate to the situation, but he has done much of this his own way, and he is better equipped for the future for learning this type of stuff at an earlier age. No child should have to go through losses under these circumstances, but many Army kids do and Zachary has conducted himself with resilience and maturity."
Zachary was recommended for the award by his school counselor Tina Bal who wrote, "Zack is a diligent leader and role model for all students. His moral fiber and pursuit of academic excellence are among the best I have had the pleasure of working with. He has experienced grave personal losses this past year from Afghanistan, but his resilience and iron will have kept him being positive and moving forward.
Zachary is an excellent student, athlete and gentleman. It is without hesitation that I recommend Zachary for the 2014 Army Military Child of the Year. He has a bright future ahead of him and I cannot wait to see what he accomplishes in the future."
Not only is Zachary busy with sports and academics, he is very involved in his church activities as well. He volunteers for Soldier appreciation days, participates in Blue Grass Academy functions, and attends Vacation Bible School.
Dr. Thomas Green, pastor at Zach's church wrote, "The first characteristic that strikes me about Zach is his respect. It is evident that he respects his parents and other adults that are in some form of authority in his life. Secondly, Zack encourages, and speaks to adults with reverence.
"He demonstrates the ability to carry the burdens that the military life has put on him. The mental toughness of knowing his Dad was in the same area [as his friend, 1st Lt. Lambka] is truly an exceptional example of how this military child exemplifies the rare qualities and carries the burden of the responsibilities of an Army child.
"Zachary represents what the Army child can truly be with dignity, respect, and humbleness like no other military child that has been at the church at such a young age."
During a visit to Fort Knox, Commanding General Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, was asked by Zachary to sign a book, Once an Eagle, that was given to him by Lt. Lambka.
Gen. Anderson, who was Shaver's and Lambka's commanding officer during several rotations said, "I feel honored to be asked to sign Zach's book on behalf of a Soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice."
Zachary likes to stay active and play football and basketball. He also likes playing video games with his friends and hanging out with them on the weekend. He enjoys spending time with his dad, like playing jail break dodge ball at church or hand fishing for big catfish when they're in Texas.
Zachary's academic achievements include being awarded student of the month twice this school year, National Junior Beta Club with a 4.0 GPA, he received the President's Award for Academic Excellence, was nominated to the Duke Gifted and Talent Identification Program, and his English score of 20 on the ACT places him above the national benchmark and qualifies him for entry level college composition.
The winner of the Military Child of the Year Award for each Service branch will be announced April 10. Each recipient will receive a laptop computer and a $5,000 cash prize, and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. for a special recognition ceremony.