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ARLINGTON, Va. - Sports, camps and dance cannot replace the void children feel when their parents are deployed with the military.

But it can provide a distraction.

On April 26, Our Military Kids celebrated the star power of children who received grants through the organization to do the things they loved most. Four children from around the United States were honored at Boeing Government Operations in Virginia, along with an entire military family.

Special guests Gabrielle Douglas, 2012 Olympic gold medalist, and NASCAR driver Griffin Steinfeld delighted the children and the adults.

The Mansfield family is from North Carolina and were Our Military Kids Family of the Year. Three sisters - Abigail, 17, Bethany, 16, and Diana, 11 - received the grants when their father,Sgt. 1st ClassWalter Mansfield,was deployed to Kuwait with the Army National Guard.

Asked to sing on the spot, Abigail and Bethany quieted a room full of people,and left them in stunned silence. The teens were proud of their talent, which they had cultivated through voice lessons with a former opera performer,paid for with their grant.

Being around other military kids “does help in certains ways,” Abigail said. “But the grants help just as much.”

“We’re all in this together,” Bethany added.

Diana, too, was part of the performance, dancing on stage while her sisters performed.

Their brother, Corey, 12, had also received a grant for theater art, but did not perform during the event.

Other honorees include William Tsang, 7; Molly Frey, 12; Conner MacFarlane, 15; and Matthew Mund, 15. At least one parent for each honoree had been deployed.

Conner’s father, Capt.Bruce MacFarlane, never returned from deployment, dying in Kandahar, Afghanistan,just days before Connerwas supposed to leave for the Boy Scouts Philmont Scout Ranchin New Mexico. Conner attended the camp in honor of his father, and spoke during the ceremony about attending the camp and his father, while a slide show played in the background.

In addition to the Mansfield sisters singing, Matthew Mund, from California, took the mic and performed a rousing country song that had the audience clapping along. Matthew’s father, Marine Gunnery Sgt. William Mund, was injured in Iraq and is now disabled.

Mund used his grant for private vocal lessons and recently won the West Coast Country Music Association’s first place award in his age group as well as Entertainer of the Year. He is also a member of the Air Force junior ROTC program.

For information on the other two honorees Frey and Tsang, watch the video. It includes comments from Douglas and Steinfeld.

Twitter: @mjtibbs


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