Editor’s note: Military Times has profiled the winners of each service’s Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year award for 2018. All of the winners will be honored Thursday night in Washington, D.C., and will receive $10,000 and other prizes; for more about the award and for links to other honorees, click here.

Aaron Hall is a leader in virtually every aspect of his high school: He’s captain of the varsity baseball team, vice president of the student body, and president of virtually every organization he belongs to there, including the baseball club, National Honor Society, Key Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The 16-year-old ranks first in academics in his junior class at Minarets High School in O’Neals, California, carrying a weighted 4.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. In addition, he takes college courses online.

Besides his varsity school team, he plays on two area travel baseball teams. And of all his accomplishments, he said, the one most important to him is the annual Military Appreciation Game he started in 2016, when his father, California Army National Guard Col. David Hall, was deployed.

“It’s a way I’m able to give back to my community, and to honor veterans in our local community, since we don’t live on a post,” he said. “Being able to raise money for a great cause, and being able to give back to my community since they’ve done so much for me.”

The event brings military personnel and veterans together for a free meal and a baseball game, and also raises money for an organization called Doc’s Dogs for Vets, a nonprofit that trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for service members and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While Aaron wants to excel academically and in sports, “he wants to do it in a values-based way,” Col. Hall said. “He walks the walk.”

Aaron, 16, said he’s considering the field of engineering and would love to be able to attend the U.S. Military Academy — and play baseball there. His brother Grant is already a West Point cadet; his younger sister Adrienne is in seventh grade.

He advises other military children to get involved with sports, clubs and other interests.

“When a parent is on [a] tour or just away for quite a bit of time, the best cure for a child, or me at least, was to always be distracted by commitments you have to other activities,” he said.

Aaron said he’s learned leadership skills from his father, “being able to see how he deals with different things and being able to apply it to my life, whether it’s leading by example, or listening to someone who’s having a hard time, or being a role model for those around me.”

Col. Hall credits Aaron’s “obviously strong mom,” Christina, for her influence, especially as he is now a geographic bachelor, stationed with Joint Forces Headquarters of the California Army National Guard.

But “it’s taken a lot of people in the community along the way,” with a number of good role models who have had an influence on Aaron — coaches, neighbors and a local pastor, to name a few.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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