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Otis Teen Leads by Example

Ketryn Kochka recieves a recoginition certicifact from Helon Wyllie, Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator, while Child and Youth Program Coordinators Debra Wilder and Susan LaFlame look on. Ms. Kotchka recieved the cetificate for her volunteer efforts at the Gold Star Mother's Day Luncheon on September 30, 2012.  (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts National Child and Youth Program Office)

Ketryn Kochka recieves a recoginition certicifact from Helon Wyllie, Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator, while Child and Youth Program Coordinators Debra Wilder and Susan LaFlame look on. Ms. Kotchka recieved the cetificate for her volunteer efforts at the Gold Star Mother's Day Luncheon on September 30, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts National Child and Youth Program Office)

Members of the Teen Council stand with Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, his wife Nancy Rice (center), and Debra Wilder and Susan LaFlame of the Child and Youth Program Office (3rd from left and far right respectively) on September 30, 2012. The Teen Council members were volunteering at a Gold Star Mother's Day luncheon for family members of fallen Massachusetts guardsmen. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts National Child and Youth Program Office)

Members of the Teen Council stand with Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, his wife Nancy Rice (center), and Debra Wilder and Susan LaFlame of the Child and Youth Program Office (3rd from left and far right respectively) on September 30, 2012. The Teen Council members were volunteering at a Gold Star Mother's Day luncheon for family members of fallen Massachusetts guardsmen. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts National Child and Youth Program Office)

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- The life of a teenager in a National Guard family can be filled with unique experiences that others may never know. To engage these young adults and enable them to make the most of their experiences, the Teen Council was formed. Organized by the Massachusetts National Guard's Child and Youth Program Office, the Teen Council brings together teens to help them take their experiences and mentor others, foster their leadership abilities, and encourage volunteering. One of the council's first members comes from a 102nd Intelligence Wing family.

As one of the initial members of the council, Ketryn Kochka, daughter of the 102nd Intelligence Wing's Master Sgt. Donald Kochka, has taken on an active role. On Sunday 30 September the teen participated in the Gold Star Mother's Day Luncheon earning a certificate of recognition from the Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator, as well as
acknowledgement from The Adjutant General and his wife.

Gold Star Mother's Day is based off the Blue Star Service Banner. The banner, designed in 1917 by World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser, is traditionally displayed in the window of a home during a time of war when a loved one is serving in the military. The flag is designed with a red border, a center field of white, and one or more blue stars, each star representing a loved one serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. If a loved one is lost while serving, a gold star is then placed on top of the blue star. Gold Star Mother's Day is the last Sunday in September and recognizes the sacrifice of those mothers whose sons or daughters were lost in the line of duty.

Survivor families from all conflicts and branches were invited and eighty individuals attended the luncheon, along with Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard and his wife Nancy. Throughout the luncheon members of the Teen Council were diligently working to make the event a success. Ms. Debra Wilder, Lead Child and Youth Coordinator for the Massachusetts National Guard said, "Teen Council members had the attendees sign-in at the guest book. They handed out yellow roses to all the gold-star mothers in attendance. They setup the food that was purchased for the luncheon and broke it down after everyone was done eating. It was a lot of the behind-the-scenes work and they did it very well; they were all very courteous and respectful of all the attendees." Looking back on Gold Star Mother's Day and the experience Ms. Kotchka remarked, "I really appreciated being there and supporting all of these families. They were all very kind and I understood that it was the right choice to be there with them."

Going forward, Ms. Wilder sees a lot of opportunities for the Teen Council and its members. "We want to provide them with training and different opportunities. For instance there is an indoor rock-climbing facility that does team building exercises, so some fun events for them as well." Ms. Wilder explained. She also detailed the benefits to the National Guard in engaging these young adults, saying, "We're looking for them to be the voices of the other youth that are in their units and their wings and to bring back to us what the needs and wants are of other kids and teens out there so we know what services and what resources can we bring to youth across the state."

The Teen Council is looking for new members, between thirteen and seventeen years old, from families all across the Massachusetts National Guard. If you know anyone interested in being part of the Teen Council you can contact debbie.wilder@us.army.mil or susan.l.laflame.ctr@us.army.mil, of the Massachusetts National Guard's Child and Youth Program Office, for more information. You can also reach Ms. Wilder and Ms. LaFlame at (508-233-7290) and (508-233-7952), respectively.