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NEWS | April 11, 2013

Against the current: JBLE youth selected top 5 of military children

By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

She cut through the water like a knife, her entire body operating in perfect synchronization with the pool - the product of years of training in multiple states and countries; a sacrifice resulting from living life as a military child.

Cait Horner, daughter of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Horner, 497th Operations Support Squadron commander, has moved seven times in the last 16 years - the only constants have been family and swimming.

"It's tough adapting to a new environment and making friends every three years," Cait said, as she looked at her father. "But, it's very rewarding to be able to share what my Dad does."

Recently, Cait was recognized as a Top 5 Air Force Finalist in the Department of Defense-wide 2013 Military Child of the Year competition, sponsored by Operation Homefront. From nearly 1,100 applicants, she was chosen as one of the best embodiments of an Air Force military child. The theme of the contest was "resiliency," something Cait is no stranger to - having endured a total of 31 months away from her father, due to deployments.

"It's hard when he misses birthdays, swim meets and dance recitals," Cait said. "We really have to lean on each other when Dad is gone."
Colonel Horner glanced at his oldest daughter and smiled.

"It actually gets harder each time," he said. "You know how to adapt to your new environment when you arrive, but leaving is still the hardest part. The last time I left for a deployment seemed much harder than before."

While deployments are a necessary, and sometimes often, by-product of military life, a supportive family can make all the difference, according to Lynne Horner, Cait's mother.

"We know this is his job and we are very proud of what he's done," Lynne said. "While he's gone, the girls and I get closer and hold the fort down."

While family is an irreplaceable source of support for the Horners, Cait said she has found her passion and niche through competitive swimming.

"I've found some really good friends through the swim team," Cait said. "They all find it crazy how many times I've moved."

With three elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools under her belt, Cait has trained herself to becoming one of the top swimmers in Virginia among high school juniors. She has done this while maintaining a 4.1 grade point average, volunteering both in her school and her community, and mentoring her younger sister, Madi.

With all of her accomplishments, Cait has remained humble - feeling as though her volunteer spirit is a way to give back to her father for the sacrifices he has made during his career in the military.

"I do it to repay Dad for everything he has done," Cait said. "It is so rewarding knowing he is out there serving our country."

The pride Cait feels for her father is mirrored by Colonel Horner.

"I'm extremely proud of her and her ability to be resilient through all these moves, and continue to do well in school at each place we go," said Colonel Horner. "Her ability to progress so well and become such an accomplished swimmer and well-rounded human being is nothing short of amazing. It makes my job easier knowing that Cait, Madi and Lynne are so incredibly supportive of my career in the Air Force."

With Cait already looking at college swimming programs and the possibility of moving away from home after graduating high school, the Horners have begun preparing for yet another change to their family. However, Cait said confidently that her time as a military child showed her there is nothing she cannot overcome or adapt to - especially with her family supporting and cheering her along the way.