Hometown: Minot, N.D.
Cause: Guidance for fellow service members
Educated about the family’s finances from an early age by his father, a pharmacist, Smolek was alarmed to overhear fellow service members discuss stocks "guaranteed” to double in a few weeks or 9% interest rates on student loans when rates for active-duty members are capped at 6%. Four years ago he initiated regular information sessions on finance at Minot Air Force Base; he has helped educate hundreds of military families on budgeting, debt, retirement investing, and more. He does one-on-one counseling too, either in person or, when deployed — as he is now in Guam — via Skype and FaceTime.