The winners of the 2018 Month of the Military Child annual Young Lives, BIG Stories Contest have been selected.

Reflecting on what it means to be a military child or youth, participants addressed this year's theme, Brave Hearts, Resilient Souls.

Seven winners ranging from 3 years old to 12th grade were chosen, based on content, form, grammar, presentation of the main idea and creativity. Each participant provided an essay or artwork to tell their story on military family life. Prizes are given for the winners of each of the age categories and one overall winner.

The contest, which is part of the annual Month of the Military Child observance, is sponsored by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation division's Child and Youth Services.

Winners by category are:

Overall winner: Sydney Heuer, Army National Guard
3- to 5-year-olds: Courtney Jones, Army National Guard
5 years to first grade: Noah Bush, Fort Campbell
Second to third grade: Margaret Gacutan, USAG Bavaria-Grafenwoehr
Fourth to fifth grade: Savanna Cleveland, USAG Wiesbaden
Sixth to eighth grade: Se Oh Bush, Fort Campbell
Ninth to 12th grade: Kassie Angle, Fort Huachuca

Sydney Heuer, the contest's overall winner, wrote an essay about her father's deployments in 2008, 2012 and this year. "I'm proud of his service, and so happy that we have been able to FaceTime often and send many care packages, but nothing will be better than the big hug I'm waiting for," Sydney wrote. "When Dad serves, the whole family serves, and I am proud to do my part to support my soldier."

Savanna Cleveland of USAG Wiesbaden described the educational experiences she has gained through travel, as well as the emotions involved in moving. "Suppose I do not make new friends, suppose we cannot find a nice house, suppose I do not like my new teacher. My parents have taught me that these emotions are normal and they comfort me by saying we are in this together."

Se Oh Bush of Fort Campbell used the analogy of a morning jog to describe the life of a military child, writing: "You start your run. You meet somebody as you're running and you chat with them. You guys make jokes, have fun, and then he leaves. So you're alone until the next person comes. This next person has replaced the other person and soon you're his friend. Then, unfortunately the path comes to a fork and he goes left and you go right. You ultimately go your own way. You finish your jog having met many people of all backgrounds, personalities, and places. That is the way of a military kid."

Kassie Angle of Fort Huachuca wrote about the positives and negatives of military family life. "It means learning to love a place just in time to leave it, and loving places so much you wish you could stay. And it means not really wanting to stay anywhere, at least not more than three years, and being just as glad when the movers bring your stuff as when they come to take it, and hoping that they don't pack porcelain dolls and power tools in the same box and then label it 'books.' It means going places you could otherwise never go, seeing things you would otherwise never see. It means freedom, and it means knowing you had a part in it, that it's the land of the free because of the brave and you know who the brave are."

Congratulations to all the 2018 winners!

Look for information on the 2019 contest early next year.