Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 14 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.
Written by Shelley Kimball
Some important numbers in 17-year-old Keegan Fike’s life as a Coast Guard kid: 125 months of his dad’s deployments and six moves.
However, those numbers have not stopped him from thriving in all of the towns in which he has lived and finding ways to give back to the communities that have helped him belong.
He volunteers to organize food drives, participates in flag-retirement ceremonies, shovels snow for senior citizens, serves and cleans up after meals at church, and collects eyeglasses to be recycled for the local Lion’s Club. His current town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, officially thanked him for leading a project that restored five rusted cannons at Fort Phoenix, a Revolutionary War landmark.
“I always feel like it’s always good to pay it forward,” Keegan Fike said. “It really helps making people happy, it helps make me feel happy. It’s really a big thing for me.”
Operation Homefront named Keegan Fike the Coast Guard military child of the year. He will receive $10,000 and participate in a special recognition gala in Washington, D.C. in mid-April. The award goes to military kids who demonstrate resiliency and strength of character as they respond to the challenges of military family life.
And because April is the Month of the Military Child, we thought Keegan’s story would be fitting.
Keegan’s dad, Lt. Brent Fike, is a Coast Guard port engineer who commutes to Boston while his family lives in Fairhaven. He nominated Keegan for the award because he has always just answered the call to help, no matter who needs him.
“I’ve been gone so much, and he always steps up and helps out at the house, and never questions, complains, nothing,” Brent Fike said. “He goes above and beyond what you would expect from a 17-year-old kid.”
They were thrilled to get the news that Keegan had been selected as the Coast Guard Military Child of the Year.
“I was shocked. He was a semifinalist last year, and then, this year, when I got the phone call, I was very shocked,” Brent Fike said. “I was extremely happy for him.”
Next, Keegan’s mom Rebecca Fike texted him while he was at school asking him to call her as soon as possible. Keegan’s mind went exactly where every child’s mind goes when they get a text from their mom.
“Did I do something wrong? What happened?” he said he was thinking as he called him mom back from his study hour.
When he heard the news, he was awash with both relief that he was not in trouble and excitement that he had been selected.
“I was speechless,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Keegan, a senior in high school, is choosing between college acceptances for next year. He intends to major in mathematics.
One of the common challenges of military family life is moving to new communities and finding ways to fit in. The Fike family kept Keegan involved in each new community through both Boy Scouts and their churches.
Those were the foundations that allowed Keegan to participate in the community, even when he was new, or when his dad was away for the Coast Guard.
“I’ve pretty much been gone for half his life,” Brent Fike said. “He takes on things and does them himself with no hesitation.”
The life of a military child brings with it several obstacles, and Keegan said he always tries to respond to them in a positive way.
Moving every few years? The Coast Guard sends you to nice places, he said.
“You’re always on the water, so you’ve got that,” Keegan said. “That’s always awesome.”
Getting used to unfamiliar places? You get to experience new people and new cultures, Keegan said.
“It really helps you learn a lot about yourself when you set out and move around a lot,” he said.
Being the new kid in town? He and his sister, Emma, 15, have come to depend more on each other because they are each other’s constant when the people around them change.
“I’ve definitely grown a lot in my relationship with my sister because I always have her and she always has me when we are trying to meet new people,” he said.
Those moves and those interactions with people and places that have helped him learn what is most important to him.
“I have been able to experience truly what I think is right, and that’s helped me grow a lot,” Keegan said.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.