It can be difficult to find one’s calling, but Joe Lewis found two. The first drove 25 years of military service. The second came after losing military friends to combat, accidents, illness and suicide, and then seeing the impact on families.
He founded Angels of America’s Fallen to help the children, who are at higher risk of depression, substance abuse and other issues.
The tragedies reverberate through their formative years. “A 3-year-old processes the loss in a certain way,” Lewis says. “When they turn 7, there’s a different realization and internalization, then again when they’re 14 [and] 17.”
That’s why AoA Fallen serves children of deceased military and first responders until they are 19, regardless of the cause of death. A child chooses an activity such as swimming, then receives funds for lessons, uniforms and other costs. The group also finds mentors.
“It is to provide positive outlets, where they write their own story,” Lewis says. “They don’t grow up in the shadow of a hero, but define who they are themselves.”
To bolster his efforts, Lewis earned a master’s degree in public administration and two graduate certificates. “We never want to lose a child because their parent gave their life for our country and community,” he says.