JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, AK, UNITED STATES
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - "Hey Gage, come downstairs; you're in trouble," Tobias Adam's voice rang out through the family home.
"Oh, darn," his 17-year-old son, Gage Dabin, thought. "What did I do now?"
While bracing himself for the worst, Dabin was instead pleasantly surprised when his parents told him he had won the Air Force Military Child of the Year award.
"It was pretty cool," Dabin said. "I was so happy."
The Air Force Military Child of the Year award is given out each year by officials with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. The award recognizes outstanding military children who demonstrate resiliency, leadership and personal achievement. Recipients representing each service branch receive their award at Washington, D.C.
Just a typical teenager waiting on college admissions, Dabin was selected as the Air Force representative from more than 1,000 military children across the nation and around the world.
"I was surprised, but am honored to represent the Air Force," the 17-year-old said.
When the Kennecott Youth Center staff reached out to Dabin and said they wanted to submit a package for him for the Air Force MCOY, he was doubtful.
Dabin, who had been busy with college applications, essays and homework, had one stipulation: "If I do not have to do any more essays or any more work, you can sign me up," he said.
"I honestly thought I was not going to win," the Bartlett High School senior said.
Senior Master Sgt. Tobias Adam, a 673rd Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief, kept his son out of the loop when Dabin made the top five finalists because he wanted his son to focus on school.
"Gage has a lot of things on his mind as we come toward the end of the year, like getting ready to graduate," Adam said. "I knew that if I told him about it, he would anticipate the announcement."
Lisa Dalton, 673rd Force Support Squadron Youth Program manager, recognized the 17-year-old's hard work.
"He truly exemplifies leadership, resiliency and compassion for others," Dalton said. "He is the first to volunteer for his fellow man, regardless of the task at hand - from feeding the homeless to assisting with a classroom full of kindergartners."
The 673rd FSS Youth Program teams have watched Dabin grow since 2010. The high school senior greatly impressed his peers, staff and community members with his level of commitment to the program and to the service learning opportunities, at which he excels, said Seante Banks, youth center team coordinator.
"We are honored to be part of Gage's journey," Dalton said. "We have watched him grow from an uncertain and shy high school freshman to the strong confident leader he is today."
Banks submitted the package, showing Dabin is involved in four organizations: National Honor Society, Kennecott Keystone Club, Youth Advisory Board and the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
"His work ethic is truly amazing and it amazes me," Adam said. "I have to ask him to stop doing homework and spend family time with us."
Dabin's accomplishments include Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson Youth of the Year, Pacific Air Forces Youth of the Year and the State of Alaska Military Youth of the Year for 2013 and 2014.
"Every child has potential," Adam said. "When you see your child has inner desire, focus it. Focus on the energy. If you see it, focus it and push them."
"He stood strong in the face of multiple permanent change of station moves with his family and several deployments placing his father in harm's way," Bank said. "It has always been during the times of family stress and uncertainty that his leadership and love has carried him through."
"We have no doubt that this young man will one day change the world," Dalton said.
Dabin will receive his award on April 10 during the sixth annual award gala in Washington, D.C., which will include a laptop computer and a $5,000 cash prize.
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This work, JBER teen named Air Force Military Child of the Year, by SSgt Sheila deVera, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.