A West Albany High School senior has been named one of 95 semifinalists nationwide for Operation Homefront's 2018 Military Child of the Year.
Taylor Pokorney, 17, was selected to represent the Marine Corps. She and Kassidy Marciel, 17, of Oregon City, were the only semifinalists named from Oregon.
Of the 95 semifinalists, 35 will be selected as finalists in February by a panel of judges chosen by Operation Homefront’s senior leadership.
Six Military Child of the Year Award recipients will be named to represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life.
A seventh award, the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, will be presented to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge. The final seven award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C., to be recognized at the April 19 gala, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards. They also will each receive $10,000, a laptop computer and other donated gifts.
Taylor's father, Marine 1st Lt. Frederick Pokorney Jr., was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom when she was just 2 years old.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund stepped in to help Taylor's mother, Chelle, after the death. The group helped them get to the funeral, secure family benefits and put aside immediate financial worries.
Afterward, Chelle worked for two years as a spokeswoman for the group, raising money, creating a handbook to outline the benefit procedures for bereaved spouses, and successfully lobbying for children's medical and dental coverage and increases in the death gratuities available for families.
The organization's logo, of a mother and child walking hand in hand through Arlington National Cemetery, is of Chelle and a toddler-sized Taylor.
Taylor put on a 5K run as a fundraiser for Intrepid during the 2016 Veterans Day weekend, working to build a team even after her Leadership class backing was canceled. She raised more than $13,000.
The following year, Taylor walked a 10K in Virginia in her father's honor as part of the Marine Corps Marathon, raising more than $1,300 for the Semper Fi Fund.
She received a 2016 Presidential Volunteer Service Award and a letter signed by President Barack Obama in honor of her work. "Thank you for your devotion to service and for doing all you can to shape a better tomorrow for our great nation," he wrote.
Chelle nominated her daughter for Military Child of the Year Award in recognition of her community service.
"My mom got an email from Operation Homefront and then forwarded it to me. I opened it and jumped up and down with excitement," Taylor said. "Out of all of the kids in the United States, I made the semifinalists! I was overly ecstatic."
If she goes on to be named a finalist or a winner, Taylor said, she will receive it in honor of her father's sacrifice. Any financial benefit would be put toward education: Her dream school is Stanford, where she wants to study psychology and business.
"Also if I get the award, I get to fly back to Washington D.C., and see my father, who is buried at Arlington cemetery, before I graduate," she said. "Overall, this is a big honor."