By Amy PerryMarch 21, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (March 21, 2013) -- A military teen on Fort Lee has been selected as the Army's Military Child of the Year by Operation Homefront.
Nicole Daly -- daughter of Ordnance Chief Col. Edward Daly and his wife Cathy -- is a junior at Prince George High School and routinely places in the top ranks of her class.
According to the Operation Homefront website, Nicole was one of more than 1,000 nominees and each service selected one overall winner. The five awardees will receive $5,000 each and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. for a recognition gala on April 11. The awards will be presented by senior leaders of each branch of service and an invitation to present the keynote address has been made to Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, himself a military family member.
Nicole has moved 10 times in the course of her life -- starting at Fort Lee and ending up here again -- and has lived in different places in the world including Korea and Italy. Less than a year ago, she moved from Fairfax to Fort Lee as her father took charge of the Ordnance School.
When registering for her junior year and deciding on classes, Nicole met Tara Bauman-Seely, a guidance counselor at Prince George High School, who nominated her for the Operation Homefront honors.
"We have amazing military students, but Nicole really stood out," Bauman-Seely said. "I scheduled her in the summer right before school. She was taking these amazingly high-level courses at her previous school. We scheduled her so she could continue those high-level courses, but she also wanted to know how she could help other military students. She wanted to get involved.
"She really stood out to me," she continued. "Her accomplishments are amazing, but she's just humbled by the experiences she's had."
While Nicole signed up for honors and advanced placement courses, she was interested in attending some of the other schools the local area had to offer -- such as the Governor's School -- that offered academically difficult courses, but ran into snags because some programs needed to be applied for during the eighth grade, an option not available to military students.
Unwilling to let that deter her, Nicole decided to get involved. She attended a military family roundtable hosted by Virginia Secretary of Veteran Affairs and Homeland Security Terrie Suit held here last year and has contacted Congressman J. Randy Forbes about ways to make the transition easier for military children.
"There's so many disadvantages that military children have," she said. "Through the panel and writing to congressmen, I've tried to initiate some of that change. I think military students should be able to attend the school that best fits their needs. It's not the military children's fault they were not able to apply during a certain period. They -- along with their families -- sacrifice so much for this country and it seems no one is willing to make exceptions for them."
During the gala, Nicole said she is especially glad that she'll get an opportunity to speak to Congressman Forbes face-to-face about the transition issues military children face.
Prince George High School is the third high school Nicole has attended, but she said she takes it in stride.
"At times, you can really get down on yourself, but looking at it from a bigger picture, the advantages I've gain far outweigh the negatives such as the diversity I've been exposed to," she said. "The thing I've taken from all this is the diversity; the innate appreciation for all different types of culture. It's invaluable."
Military children get a unique opportunity to travel and see other parts of the world, said Nicole, and it's something she relishes about her life as a military family member.
"While in Italy, I attended an international school where there were so many different ethnicities," she said. "That's how I got to grow up -- appreciating the different cultures. It was just normal for me, but a lot of Americans aren't exposed to that. Sometimes when you're young, you don't realize how broadening and enlightening that way. As you get older, you realize how much it influenced you. You accept diversity more."
Getting other families to see the advantages in moving is also a skill of Nicole's, said Colonel Daly.
"I'm impressed that she sees moving as an opportunity as opposed to challenge," he said. "Moving is not being separated from people she knows, but it's an opportunity to broaden horizons with other people who can come into her life to affect her. Some people can take moving as a negative thing, and she hasn't. It's been really inspiring for me. I find myself upset about moving again, but she's helped me stay balanced on that."
Aside from the tough academic schedule, Nicole also volunteers at the Fort Lee Thrift Shop and with her mother when she briefs Army National Guard and Reserve members about their education benefits.
"Briefing the Soldiers is a really rewarding experience," she said. "It's neat to see all these Soldiers taking advantage of those benefits."
Her mother -- Cathy -- said the award represents all the hard work at school and within the community Nicole has done.
"I think she does all of the things in her life because she really cares about people and she cares about making a difference," said Cathy. "She knows that in order for her to make a difference she needs to excel academically and in other areas of her life as well. Nicole is not content with mediocrity -- she tries to do her best in everything she is involved with."
Colonel Daly echoed his wife's sentiments.
"We're unbelievably proud of Nicole," he said. "She is a self-starter and really selfless and dedicated in her approach. She knows this award isn't about her; it's about being tied to this great profession. When she gets involved, she really wants to make a difference for other people."