At just 15 years old, Haley Hine has had experiences and challenges many people may never have in a lifetime. Whether it’s swimming with sharks, performing for her church congregation, or high-flying through the air with her cheer squad, Haley routinely demonstrates her fearless nature.
She has proven fearless while helping her mom and younger siblings while her dad was overseas fighting for our country with the U.S. Marine Corps. She channeled that same tenacity when he returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). And was fearless in the face of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Through it all, Haley displayed amazing resilience, courage, compassion, and a sense of adventure.
Those are just some of the reasons Haley was recently honored by Our Military Kids® (OMK), a community partner of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). OMK recognizes the sacrifice of children of deployed National Guard, Reserves, or post-9/11 combat-injured service members by offering extracurricular activity grants that build the child's self-confidence, enhance family wellness, and strengthen a shared sense of community. WWP is proud to enter its seventh year of partnership with OMK, supporting the organization’s Severely Injured program.
OMK acknowledges the unique challenges military children face and aims to honor their service to their families and communities annually through the OMK Courageous Kids Contest. Haley won her award this year in the U.S. Marine Corps category.
Wounded Warrior Project understands the sacrifices military families and caregivers have made. We're committed to helping the next generation thrive long-term, building healthy families and thriving young people in the military and veteran communities we serve. According to WWP’s Annual Warrior Survey, 4% of the warriors WWP serves list a child as their primary caregiver. WWP offers programs and services to support military caregivers, including children, and provides support to community partners, like OMK, to improve the lives of military families.
The inaugural OMK Courageous Kids Contest kicked off in 2021. The contest is open to kids ages 3 to 18 who had a parent deployed with the National Guard or Reserves in the previous year, or who had a parent in treatment from post-9/11 combat-related injuries.
The purpose of the contest is to recognize military kids who have exceeded expectations in their roles with their families, in their communities, at school, and beyond.
“In early 2021, we wanted to do something to commemorate both April's Month of the Military Child and look back on those kids from the previous year in 2020 and really highlight, honor and bring awareness to the amazing things they were doing at home and in their communities, while also coping with a pandemic,” said Michelle Criqui, OMK’s marketing and communications manager.
This year, OMK, with assistance from volunteers at Wounded Warrior Project and others, selected the 12 award winners, representing all the service branches and Reserves, as well as the newly added “Hidden Helpers Hero” award, designed to recognize caregiving children and youth.
“We received about 300 submissions this go around, which was about 100 more than last year,” Michelle said. “We're hoping to continue to raise those numbers every year. We really want to reflect and look back on the previous year’s kids and all they've gone through and to shine a light on them.”
Although most kids in OMK’s program have incredible stories, the contest winners and nominees demonstrated exceptional courage, resilience, and strength.
“We were really just looking for those stories that stood out and made us say, ‘Wow this child really did go above and beyond,’” Michelle said.
Haley is the daughter of Nick and Briana Hine and lives with her parents and two younger brothers in Temecula, California.
Nick, a WWP alumnus, was a Marine sniper and returned from multiple deployments with PTSD and TBI. Having Nick back home was a blessing but watching him deal with his injuries affected Haley and her siblings, who deal with secondary PTSD, Briana said.
If their dad’s combat injuries weren’t enough, Briana was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent a double mastectomy, and is still waiting to see if the treatments have worked. Through all of this, Haley has maintained her positive attitude, something that runs in the Hine family.
“I love waking up every morning and I see my kids, and I see my family and every single day is just a blessing,” Briana said. “So, we can sit and complain about all the bad things that are happening but honestly, there are people out there who have it 10 times worse than the things I'm going through. I think we live by this model as a family.”
Haley spent much of her life waiting for her dad to return from war. Briana said Haley displayed her strength and maturity at a very young age.
“I remember during one deployment, he wasn't able to be there, obviously, for holidays, like Father's Day,” Briana said. “[Haley] said to me, “It's fine, mom.’ She was only around 6 at the time. I could tell from her personality that she had basically developed into that resilient military child, right off the bat. She just made things really easy for me. And I couldn't be more proud of her.”
Haley has been astounding her mom since the beginning. Briana says one of the most amazing things about Haley is her bravery.
“She has no fear,” Briana said.
Briana recalls taking a family trip to Hawaii when Haley was only around 5 or 6 years old. Her sense of adventure and fearlessness was jaw-dropping.
“We asked her if she wanted to go shark diving with her dad, and she said sure,” Briana said. “At that point, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she's only in kindergarten. She has no idea what shark diving even is,’ but she went on the boat. She was the only child on the boat. So, of course, I'm panicking. Some adults got sick and decided not to do it. The captain of the boat asks who wants to be the first one to go and she raises her hand. I thought for sure as soon as she sees the shark fins circling that she's going to back out. She sees the sharks circling and she says, ‘Alright, I’m ready to go.’
“That's just the kind of personality she has. She's always ready to do anything … to do everything. She's extremely brave. She's the epitome of a Marine Corps daughter.”
It’s not just her resiliency, courage and fearlessness that wows her parents. It’s her big heart that really stands out.
“She has been helping people in her heart since she was little,” Briana said. “I can remember when we were always late to school because we like to get breakfast at this spot right next to her preschool and there was always a homeless gentleman who would be sitting next to the drive-thru. She'd say, ‘Nope, I'm not going to school unless you get him something.’ She's still like that.”
Haley’s future goal is to be a doctor. Her plan B is to be a homicide detective. Regardless of her career choice, her drive and dedication have already led to success in academics and extracurricular activities like soccer and cheerleading. She also hopes to inspire her peers, especially other military kids, with her positive attitude.
“I think a lot of military kids are really mature for their age because of the experience that they went through,” Briana said. “I think Haley would tell them to use the leadership skills they learned from the experience of being a military child in a positive way.”
When it comes to family members of injured veterans, sometimes the impact on children is overlooked. It’s important to recognize the special sacrifices these kids make so their parents can protect all of us.
The OMK Courageous Kids Contest represent that recognition and honors that sacrifice, which is valuable to the children of service members.
“I cannot express how important this (award) was. I can’t express how much this would impact not only her, but any military teen in general, because it's that special recognition,” Briana said. “This isn't just about succeeding on a level of good grades or participating in the sport, and the civilian community doesn't always recognize how much military families can go through.”
Military kids often see their parents who served as heroes, but it’s significant to acknowledge that these kids are also heroes for what they do for their families and communities.
“The children of wounded veterans often play such a huge role that people don't see,” OMK’s Michelle said. “It's children, like Haley, who are behind the scenes, helping their parents, whether it's reminding them to take medications or even helping them to put on their shoes … these things that parents usually do for their children.
“It's a huge sacrifice these kids make, and their peers probably don't fully understand it. They absolutely are deserving of this recognition and the acknowledgement that their sacrifices are not made in vain, and they're so appreciated.”
Contact: — Paris Moulden, Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.570.7910
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.