JOHNSTON, Iowa – “Life as a military kid isn’t always the easiest, but you can either survive it or you can decide to thrive in it,” said Capt. Josh Dunwoody.
Many service members with families join the military at a young age and have a family around their lifestyle. After having all three of his children, Dunwoody decided to raise his right hand and serve his state and country, joining the Iowa Army National Guard as a second lieutenant. It was a huge shift in their household but the Dunwoodys said they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Klaryssa (Klair) Dunwoody, daughter of Capt. Josh Dunwoody, earned the Iowa Army National Guard Youth Volunteer of the Year for exemplary contribution and dedication to the Soldiers and families of the Iowa Army National Guard April 15, 2023.
When Klair was accepted into the Iowa National Guard’s State Teen Panel three years ago, she wasn’t sure what to expect. The STP falls under the Iowa National Guard Child and Youth Program. It gives military kids a chance to be involved in the planning and running of military family events.
Since then, the panel has tripled in size. Members take turns planning, setting up and tearing down events like Trunk or Treat and Cookies with Santa. They even started the first annual Military Family Ball.
“She’s always had a heart for service,” said Josh. “[She has] just always been somebody that wants to be involved and wants to have an impact.”
Klair is a seasoned volunteer and assists in Iowa National Guard events outside of her STP duties. She has helped at a handful of pre- and post-deployment events, primarily by providing childcare for service members as they attend briefings.
The STP helps younger military kids deal with the added stress of being a child of a service member. Klair said they act as examples for younger kids to follow.
“It’s like a different kind of family,” said Klair.
For Klair, being a military child means going to different places around the state helping her dad, meeting other military kids and paving the way for younger children by helping them manage the weight of it all.
“I’ve always been proud of the fact that I am a military child,” said Klair. “At the end of the day, it’s cool to be able to say my dad is in the military.”
For Dunwoody, being a service member means missing birthdays, anniversaries and school events for his children.
“You just embrace it as a family and say, ‘This is who we are,’” said Josh. “Klair and her brother and sister have proved [to be] incredibly resilient.”
In 2022, Klair was nominated for child of the year for the Army and was selected to represent Iowa in the semifinals.
“It was pretty cool,” said Klair, “I wasn’t expecting to go that far.”
Klair has been nominated for the Iowa Army Military Child of the Year in 2023 and is awaiting the results.
The Iowa National Guard Child & Youth Program uses the STP to hold events regularly to connect military youth. You can find future events at iowacyp.com