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While many of her peers are planning to leave the county and the state for the first time to go to college, Calvert High School senior Whitney Hiltpold is happy to finally be the one who’s staying put.

As the daughter of a U.S. Marine chief warrant officer, Whitney has moved six years throughout her life from Japan to Hawaii to Florida to England to Hawaii again to North Carolina to Prince Frederick, where her family has resided for the past two years while her father, Eric Hiltpold, works at Fort George G. Meade.

While she is used to her father receiving recognition, this year it was Whitney’s turn as a nominee for Military Child of the Year from Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to military families.

While she was not ultimately named as a winner, Whitney, 18, did make the top 20 nominees in the category of children of U.S. Marines.

She said she was nominated by her school’s guidance secretary, Barbara Nerich, with whom she attended a training program in Dallas last March.

Whitney said the training was for a new program Calvert High School has started for military student transfers to be welcomed by their peers.

“It’s one thing to have a teacher show you around the school, but it’s another if it’s one of your peers,” she said, continuing that she was specifically interested in the program because “I’ve been to so many schools through my life.”

Life as a military child has it’s pluses and minuses, Whitney said.

“It sucks having to leave your friends and get to know a new school and a new community,” she said.

The frequent moving has given Whitney a chance to see a lot of the world in addition to strengthening her family relationships, she said.

“Our whole family is really close because when you move to a new place, they’re just all you have,” said Whitney, who has two younger sisters.

She said living on a military bases also adds to a sense of not being alone.

“I felt really close to those kids because they were going through the same thing. ... Now I don’t meet as many kids who are like me I could probably count on one hand the military kids I know [at school],” Whitney said.

Because her father is planning to retire in Calvert County, Whitney said she is looking forward to starting her first two years of college close to home at the College of Southern Maryland.

“I don’t really feel like moving anytime soon,” said Whitney, who plans to study nursing.

She said she learned of her nomination in late January and completed a telephone interview with Operation Homefront Staff.

“It feels good to be recognized because you give up so much. My dad gives up a lot obviously he fights for our country but as a dependent it’s hard,” Whitney said.

Eric Hiltpold said he knew it was especially tough for his daughter when he was deployed to Iraq twice.

“I’ve essentially been gone half her childhood; it’s been challenging,” he said, continuing that his daughter always prevailed.

“She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s sensitive ... she’s got a leader mentality to her,” he said.

Whitney’s mom April Hiltpold said while it wasn’t surprising that someone would nominate her daughter, the honor was truly special.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be recognized out of hundreds of thousands of children, literally,” April Hiltpold said.

“The sons and daughters of America’s service members learn what patriotism is at a very young age,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Operation Homefront in a press release. “Children in military families demonstrate leadership within their families and within their communities. This is what the Military Child of the Year Award honors.”

lbuck@somdnews.com