MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The 927th Air Refueling Wing was introduced to one of the most resilient members of its family during a family day gathering here April 30.
Tam Keenan, from the Kids Wish Network, introduced 7-year-old Lennon Little to the wing and presented him with a military uniform.
U.S. Air Force Col. Kurt Matthews, 927th ARW commander, presented Lennon with his commander's coin, thanked him for his bravery and made him an honorary commander for the family day.
Life-threatening health challenges qualified Lennon to receive a wish through the Kids Wish Network.
For his wish, Lennon chose to meet former U.S. President Donald Trump and an update to that wish came in the form of a surprise gift box presented to him during the family day. Inside, Lennon found a personal letter, coin and several autographed memorabilia items from the former president.
“We're incredibly proud to have the Littles in the 927th family and it was a personal honor to meet Lennon at family day,” said Matthews. “Their family has demonstrated the kind of resiliency and dedication that inspires us all.”
Lennon is the son of U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Rachel Little, 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of ground training and John Little, a former 6th Security Forces Squadron Defender.
While John and Rachel Little are both accustomed to life in the Air Force with challenges such as long hours on shift and deployments, nothing has tested them as much as when their son’s health fell into jeopardy before his first birthday.
Shortly after Lennon was born, he began having episodes where he would stop breathing, passing out for seconds at a time.
Lennon’s mother, Rachel, who is medically trained through the Air Force, was extremely worried and insisted that cardiologists monitor her son.
Agreeing, the doctors placed a heart monitor on Lennon. It wasn’t long after that, approximately three weeks later, before Lennon had another medical episode. This one, however, was much worse than before.
“To illustrate my point, I usually ask people to take out their phone and run their stopwatch,” said John Little. “17.4 seconds - that’s how long my son was limp in my arms, turning blue.”
A length of time that normally passes without notice, for the Lennon’s family, it was an eternity.
The Littles didn’t even wait for an ambulance, opting to drive straight to the hospital, where their son’s cardiologists awaited.
They had already seen from the monitor that Lennon experienced asystole, meaning his heart ceased electrical activity, denying blood flow to his body. Diagnosing him with long QT syndrome, the doctors began discussing surgery for Lennon.
“Days before his first birthday, Lennon received a pacemaker,” said John Little. “The nurses were incredible, even pitching in to get him a birthday cake and celebrate while he was in the cardiac intensive care unit.”
Since the life-saving intervention, Lennon has grown into a strong-willed, smart and successful child. His family has a strong sense of service and Lennon always steps up to take care of his family.
“He does so much around the home to help the family while his mother is deployed,” said John Little. “We’re so blessed and I’m proud to watch him grow every day.”
Hearing of Lennon’s health challenges, the Kids Wish Network, a charitable organization that seeks to change children’s lives, qualified him to receive a lifetime wish due to the severity of his health condition.
“We left it completely up to Lennon, explaining to him that he should be very careful,” said John Little. “Think of somewhere you really want to go, someone you want to meet, or something you really want to do because this is a very big deal.”
Lennon’s choice was to meet former President Trump. The Kids Wish Network stayed in contact with the Little family and invited them to be recognized at the 927th ARW’s family day event.
Having met and married Rachel at MacDill AFB, John Little felt particularly honored to revisit the base with his sons, though his wife couldn’t be there due to a deployment with the 45th AES.
“On the way to the family day, we stopped in front of the 6th Security Forces Squadron,” said John Little. “A Defender who was walking out stopped and took a photo of my sons and me in front of the Lieutenant Helton memorial. It meant a lot because he was my flight commander before being killed in action in Iraq.”
Sharing his son’s story of overcoming hardship and watching Lennon’s surprise as he opened his gift in front of the 927th ARW reminded John Little of the joy that comes in life that comes from service.
“We are extremely blessed because of the people in our life,” said John Little. “Receiving so much truly makes you understand how important it is to serve others and to give.”