A big part of the military lifestyle is legacy.

Currently 1% of the population protects the rights and freedoms of the other 99% of us by serving in the United States Armed Forces. But WHY do they serve?

It’s more than putting on a uniform. In fact, I just spoke to an audience filled with young people at Congressman Knight’s All Academies Information day. I told them that putting on the uniform doesn’t make you a hero, but wearing that uniform with “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All You DO” is pretty heroic. screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-4-36-58-pm

Why do our nation’s youth continue to volunteer for military service during a time of war? As I already mentioned, a significant part of it has to do with legacy. If you ask a room full of those potential service academy candidates, “How many of you have a parent, grandparent, sibling or other family member serve?” About 80% of the hands will dart up into the air proudly.When we spoke at our 16th Heroes at Home Financial Event  event at Los Angeles Air Force Base last week, I asked the military audience the same question and hands flew, even as spirits soared at the pride in service.

Our family is no exception. I never knew my grandfather who was in the Army Air Corps. He was killed in action in WWII when his bomber crashed on takeoff. My dad is a retired USAF Chief. The next person in our family’s line of military service is the “Lord of the Rings” or as I call him “The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot.”

My husband shrugs off his remarkable accomplishments with  humility, “I was a poor kid from the wrong side of Reseda with little to no prospects and an uncertain future.” Then he discovered he wanted to fly and heard about the Air Force Academy. He made that a goal from a young age and worked hard day and night to go to USAFA, get his commission, and then learn to fly jets. No one gave him anything. His alcoholic grandparents, who raised him, never came to his graduation. But he knew he could serve. He could also give his kids better than he got. And he did.

We have 4 civilian children and 3 military children. We are proud of our civilian kids and consider them “Heroes at Home” for the fact that they support those who serve (their dad and siblings).

Our military sons all chose different academies and one by one, they earned their Academy rings, just like their dad. They will pay for their college education at these military Academies in 5 to 10 years of military service–the price of freedom isn’t free. Most college kids don’t have to joshua-gives-mama-her-ring-necklaceput their lives on the line to pay for a college education. In a tribute to the “old fighter pilot” the oldest son, a Marine, chose to model his USNA ring after his dad’s–a star sapphire set in white gold. Then the USAFA son, currently in pilot training, chose his dad’s style ring when he received it as a rising senior.

Earlier this month, the baby, got his ring from West Point and you guessed it–he got it to match the others. He even got his mama a replica of the famed ring, fashioned into a necklace.

I cried.

A lot.

The military sons flew out to support their baby bro on #RingWeekend.

Four rings, one legacy of service.

Why do they serve?

Because their dad did, because it’s their calling or destiny. Because they can.

Do you know someone who serves? Why don’t you ask them why and see how they answer that question? There are many different reasons that our brave men and women put on that uniform and serve #DutyHonorCountry. But for the Kay men–they are simply following the legacy of The Lord of the Rings–aka the “World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot.”

©2016-2020 Ellie Kay


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