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 Elisabeth McCallum Polleys works at a National Child Identification Program event where she helps parents record their children’s voices and fingerprints. The Macomb Township resident is the daughter of U.S. Army Major Tara McCallum.

Elisabeth McCallum Polleys works at a National Child Identification Program event where she helps parents record their children’s voices and fingerprints. The Macomb Township resident is the daughter of U.S. Army Major Tara McCallum.

Photo provided by Tara McCallum

Macomb Township teen wins top military award

To be honored next month in D.C.

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 26, 2019


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Elisabeth McCallum Polleys lives her life in service for others, something she’s learned from her mother.

On March 6, she, along with six other youth from around the country, found out they are recipients of the 2019 Military Child of the Year Award.

McCallum Polleys, of Macomb Township, was named the Army military child of the year. Her mother, Tara McCallum, is an Army major who works at the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, in Warren as chief military counsel.

Each recipient earned the award based on the armed forces branch in which a parent either serves or has served. The award is sponsored by Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable and secure military families so that they can thrive in the communities they work to protect.

“Elisabeth is a military child who truly aligns with the core values our judges look for each year,” Mike Lahrman, public relations manager at Operation Homefront, said. “She demonstrates excellence in her community and beyond.”

The award is the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of military children. McCallum Polleys was nominated by her mother.

“When they told me I had won, it made me feel proud to be a military child,” McCallum Polleys said. “As military children, we don’t really get recognized for all the sacrifices we have to make for our family. We have to pack up and give up almost everything we have in one state or country and move for our parents.”

McCallum Polleys, 16, has done plenty of packing in her young life. Born in Vicenza, Italy, she then moved to Seattle, Washington, where her mother was stationed at Joint Base Lewis–McChord. Since 2009, she has lived in Virginia, Missouri, Hawaii and Michigan.

“I’m extremely proud,” McCallum said. “When Operation Homefront called to let me know she won, I started tearing up, because I was so proud of her. She’s worked really hard. It’s hard for any kid to move and give up everything.”

Her many talents and dedication to service are evident in her range of volunteer activities, from appearing on PBS WKAR’s “Curious Crew,” showcasing kids’ hands-on investigation of science, technology, engineering and math; to cleaning up roadside litter and serving dinner to veterans and visiting nursing home patients through Job’s Daughters International, a Masonic-affiliated youth organization for girls and young women.

“I like being involved with the community, and for always having to move, I want to leave my mark somewhere and always learn,” McCallum Polleys said. “Being a part of community volunteering makes me happy. I see my mom helping out our country and going to war, trying to make this country a better place, and I want to do the same.”

McCallum Polleys is a junior at L’Anse Creuse High School–North in Macomb Township. There, she helps mentor incoming freshmen as a member of Link Crew, and in keeping with one of her aspirations to become an actress, she performs with the Pankow Performing Arts program and the Thespian Troupe.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be an actress,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed acting and like the idea of being a different person and character than what I usually am.”

After serious back surgery in 2017 to correct scoliosis that forced her to miss the second half of her freshman year, she became active with Curvy Girls, leading a monthly Detroit support group of eight to 20 young women who may feel alone, different and worried about surgery.

McCallum Polleys maintains a 3.9 GPA and works part-time at the John R. Armstrong Performing Arts Center in Clinton Township.

When her mother was reassigned from Honolulu to Detroit in 2015, McCallum Polleys lost her sense of belonging and faced challenges breaking into new friend groups.

She credits her experience as a military child with making her resilient enough to overcome the obstacles and difficulties she has encountered by volunteering with new organizations and recognizing that each place has much to offer if you look for it.

“Military children have all these challenges they have to overcome,” she said. “You can’t live your life giving up. When we move, we have to make new friends and learn different cultures. This is how life works – you feel the most welcomed right when you’re about to move.”

McCallum Polleys and other award recipients will travel to Washington, D.C. to be recognized at a gala on April 18 at The Ritz-Carlton, where senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards.

Award winners will receive $10,000, a laptop computer and other donated gifts.