San Antonio teen selected as ‘Military Child of the Year’

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio teen was selected as a 2024 Military Child of the Year.

Noelani Martinez was selected by Operation Homefront to represent the U.S. Air Force.

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She’s one of seven military children chosen among hundreds of nominations for their exceptional academics, community involvement and peer leadership.

Martinez will be honored along with the other winners at a gala in Arlington, VA on April 11. She will also receive a $10,000 grant, a laptop computer and other donated gifts.

“While each of our seven awardees’ stories are as compelling as they are unique, they share several common attributes that help put their experiences, and those of the millions of other military kids that serve all of us along with their parents, into perspective: resiliency, strength, and service,” says Brig. Gen. (ret.) John I. Pray Jr., CEO of Operation Homefront. “We are so proud to recognize the impact they have had, and will continue to have, on their respective communities and our country.”

Noelani is a junior at Brennan High School. She is the daughter of Gail and Air Force Col. Melchizedek “Kato” Martinez, a Purple Heart recipient who served for 29 years and retired in July 2021.

Noelani, her father and three siblings were seriously injured in a 2016 terrorist attack at the Brussels airport, which took the life of her mother, Gail.

Noelani Martinez has been selected as Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year representing the Air Force. (Martinez Family via Operation Homefront)

“Her resilience began to shine while her family was hospitalized. She was the only one among them able to walk, and she would visit them, share joyful observations, and enlist nurses to help them,” her online biography states.

Noelani has moved six times during her father’s military career. She said it’s amazing to make friends around the world but also acknowledged the difficulties of being in a military family. She encourages other military children to “give themselves grace.”

Noelani is a drummer with the San Antonio School of Rock House Band and in the leadership of the Brennan ROTC.

She hopes to compose music for movies, video games and musicals and aims to study at either the Berklee Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, or the SJA Music Institute in South Korea.

“She continues to bear both the physical and emotional scars of that tragic day, but rather than allow it to defeat her, she uses the pain to fight on and honor her mother’s love,” her father said.

You can read more about Noelani and the other recipients of this year’s Military Child of the Year Award online.

Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families.

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