Three local teens in the running for 'Military Child of the Year'


(WEAR) - American service members have among nearly two million kids, from newborns to 18-year-olds.

Ninety are in the running for "Military Child of the Year," and three are in Santa Rosa County!

Gulf Breeze High Senior Tori Bindi is one of them.

The 18-year-old usually moves every two to three years because her dad is in the Navy.

"I think it's been a great, positive experience of my life, just because I've been able to see so many things and it's really made me the person who I am," Tori said.

Through all the new cities and new schools, she's found a way to fit in.

"I've been really able to come out of my shell and been able to experience all of these great things and make friends and stuff like that," she said.

Tori also has the benefit and the challenge of making her mark in sports.

She's a state champion swimmer.

Tori said, "I wouldn't say it makes it easier, it just makes me be able to know what I need to do and stuff like that. Just the obstacles I've been able to overcome, like moving so much, it's really been an amazing experience."

The military life, she said, has prepared her for anything.

"Anybody can really be nominated for "Military Child of the Year," and I'm just very honored to be a part of it and to represent the kids in our area," Tori said.

Another semifinalist for "Military Child of the Year" also goes to Gulf Breeze High School.

Hailie Wright, 16, didn't choose the military life, but she embraces it.

"I get the benefit of learning about a culture in person, like the Japanese culture, instead of just learning from a textbook about it," Hailie said.

It's an experience she's eager to share.

Hailie said, "When you start talking about something you've experienced firsthand, it's a lot easier for you to understand it, but you can also share what you've learned with your classmates."

Hailie's dad is in the Air Force.

She said, "I view everything that my dad does as amazing, and he can never let me down."

His service has given her a more worldly perspective.

"Instead of viewing something overseas as distant, I've been there, so I know it's not that far away," Hailie said.

She said being named a "Military Child of the Year" semi-finalist is a blessing.

"And I think since I get this opportunity to show people, it'll help me to be a better person," Hailie said.

The third semi-finalist in our area is Lacey Littleton, 18.

Lacey's dad is in the Air Force and she has traveled the world.

"I've lived in 11 different countries and 24 different states," she said.

Lacey said being in a military family taught her to be open-minded.

"I'm used to change all the time, and never really gotten attached to one specific location or idea and I'm always open to change," Lacey said.

Growing up on Air Force Bases has prompted her to study Aerospace Engineering.

She said, "Whenever we lived in Vandenberg, I got to see multiple different rocket launches, meet several Astronauts and so being in the military has been good to see what it is that I like to do and kind of shaped my interest in that direction."

The high school senior is now developing her skills with an internship at Robotics Unlimited in Pensacola and by building her own robots for competitions.

"Of the four robots that I've built, three of them have won first place," she said.

Finalists for "Military Child of the Year" will be announced this month, and the winner will be named in April in Washington, D.C.
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