Like It or Not, You’re Building a Legacy; regardless of your age, sphere of influence or net worth. One of the ways kids force legacy building upon us is through an endless series of curious and innocent questions, some of which really deserve an answer. Tim Maurer’s words were aimed at parents when Forbes published his legacy column. However, Tim’s series of struggles and sacrifices, and near death experience, grabbed my attention through a different lens.
It doesn’t have to take the aging process, a tragedy, or some health crisis for us to “see the light.” The choices we make, the way we respond to struggles, the sacrifices we’re willing to make (or not make), the strength we compile and then use to help others in the process — that’s all part of making of a legacy, like it or not.
What if we didn’t wait for a “see the light” kind of moment? What if we began building a legacy much earlier in life? What if seeing a need, recognizing a void, happened at just 5, 8 or 11 years-of-age?
That is exactly what happened for some of our nation’s military children — their legacy is now. The Month of the Military Child is celebrated each year in April. The awareness month underscores the important role of children in the Armed Forces community. There are nearly 2 million military children, ranging from newborn to 18 years of age. They face struggles and make sacrifices most youth don’t ordinarily experience. Their parents are among the 1% of the population volunteering to serve in the branches of the United States military.
Rather than highlight how our nation at large is recognizing military kids this month, let’s take a look at how these children are they themselves helping, influencing, and building a legacy, all year-long.
Michael-Logan, the son of a Marine, was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at the age of three, both of which limit mobility and require intense medical treatment, physical therapy, and surgeries.
In “The Caring Cure“, Psychology Today notes that “volunteering can give us a deep sense of happiness.” Michael-Logan Jordan was seemingly born with the trait for volunteerism. At the age of five he started helping others in need, seeing it as “the best medicine for his disease.” He went on to become an Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation and President of his own charity – Logan’s Heroes Foundation. He was recognized as one of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers of Prudential Locations’ Spirit of Community Awards for his humanitarian work in 2013. His professional sights are set high too; he has plans of becoming a Pediatric Rheumatologist to help find a cure. He substantiates the career choice with a desire “to focus [his] practice within Military Treatment Facilities. Our military kids deserve the best and easily accessible medical care,” Michael-Logan says. You can follow his evolving legacy on Twitter.
Sarah Hesterman is another passionate advocate and active citizen. Sarah works to promote the rights of women and girls around the world, with a specific focus on the Middle East. She’s paired up with the United Nations Foundation, as the campaign innovator for “Girl Up Qatar.” The platform focuses on providing adolescent girls in third-world countries with an education. Sarah wasn’t just curious about Arabic culture, she immersed herself in it by learning to proficiently speak Formal Arabic. As noted by The American Psychological Association, “the uncertainties that are part of growing up, and childhood can be anything but carefree.” With her father, mother, both grandfathers, and an uncle having all actively served or still serving, Sarah is all too familiar with the inherent struggles and sacrifices. A military lifestyle typically includes frequent moves, lengthy separations (deployments), and searching for a personal niche among a state of flux. Yet, Sarah has found a way to ease the struggles and accept the sacrifices – through volunteering. She boldly uses her strengths in places where she can diminish uncertainties and magnify hope. Jan Farmer (her teacher) described her outlook in way that’s worth emulating, “Sarah has made the decision to embrace the life that she has been given. She looks at every experience as an opportunity.”
Last but certainly not least, I want to re-introduce you to a military teenager who I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know.
Kenzie Hall shared the microphone on our Because Hope Matters Radio show on two occasions. Once with another clever innovator – Kylie Simonds who created the IV-Pediatric Backpack – and then again as her Brat Pack 11 Foundation’s mission was expanding. At age 11, Kenzie Hall began spending an inordinate amount of time creating smoother transitions for military kids. In 2013, her “idea” became a non-profit granting wishes to military kids who have lost a parent in combat or whose parent suffered war-related injuries. She continues granting wishes to make extraordinary things happen! Now, as a part of her legacy building project, Kenzie is offering a YouTube series, affectionately and appropriately, named Brat Pack TV. In her words, “the channel will be dedicated to inspiring, motivating, and empowering youth to not only chase their dreams, but to make a difference in their community.” Her 501c3 non-profit organization is still granting wishes, too. You can follow along and give to her amazing cause HERE. With Casting Director Jeremy Gordon and MTV’s Teen Wolf heart-throb Cody Saintgnue among her board of directors, Kenzie is all geared-up for the next “wish experience.”
Each of these children have been honored with the Military Child of the Year Award. Their initiatives began through a series of curious and innocent questions, some of which really deserve an answer. Then, they chose to do more; within their sphere of influence at first, and then … ripple effects soon evidenced the building of a legacy. Through struggle, sacrifice, and strength, they’ve chosen to make a difference in countless hurting lives.
Have you met a military child who’s helped others see the light? Tell us about their legacy in-the-making. Oh, and by the way, Happy Military Child Month to our grown up military brats, Derek & Loren. 😉