The Air Force transferred Mark Newberry’s family to Spokane from Virginia as he was starting his senior year in high school. It was his 10th move in his 18 years.
His parents are Jill and Col. Brian Newberry, wing commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base. Mark moved from a large school of 1,900 students to Medical Lake High School, with a student body of about 500.
“It was definitely a shock,” Mark Newberry said. But, “They were so nice to me, that made me feel so much better about my decision.”
Newberry described the circumstances in Virginia, where his dad was stationed at the Pentagon: “Dad was coming off of a yearlong deployment but did give me the option to stay. I was torn. If I had stayed, then my mom would have as well. I didn’t want to risk splitting up my family.” He has one brother, Matthew, who is an eighth-grader.
Medical Lake High eased his transition through welcoming activities, such as the cross country team summer camp. Principal John McSmith spoke fondly of Newberry. “He came in, made the cross country team and helped them go to state. He hasn’t missed a beat. It’s as if he’s been here for years.”
Newberry was recently selected Air Force Military Child of the Year, an award from Operation Homefront, which recognizes one child from each branch of the military. According to Newberry, they particularly look for kids who have faced the challenges of moving several times.
“I had moved 10 times. I definitely met that requirement,” he said.
With military precision, he recited the places he has lived: “I moved to California when I was 10 days old; lived in Nebraska for four years; Charleston, S.C., after kindergarten; Oklahoma; then to Mobile, Ala., for third grade; for fourth grade, Leavenworth, Kan.; then fifth grade, Virginia; I lived in Seattle for sixth and seventh grade; Virginia for eighth grade to my junior year, where my dad was stationed at the Pentagon again; then to Spokane for my senior year.”
The nomadic life has “truly given me the ability to adapt,” he said. “It’s taught me the importance of family. Having to rely on family has really strengthened both me and my family. It’s really taught me a lot about the importance of sacrifice to your nation and just doing what you can.”
McSmith said Newberry is “mentally tough and full of compassion. He has made a tremendous positive impact on us and most of his friends, teachers and staff. He will be remembered.”
It’s no surprise that Newberry plans to move after graduation. He’s considering the University of Michigan and the University of Texas. He was offered an Air Force ROTC Scholarship and plans to study chemistry, with the goal of becoming a doctor.
Despite his background, moving away to college won’t be without difficulties: “It will be challenging living away from my parents,” he said. “They really inspire me to follow my dreams and try my best to leave my mark.”