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Lennox Adams is anything but your typical 4-year-old.

Sure he loves superheroes – especially Spider-Man – riding his bike and the color orange. But Adams is a military child, the son of Marines, whose young life has a big story to tell.

He’s had a passport since before he could walk. Watched his mom present the flag to the widow of a fallen Marine. Listened to the vice president speak in Chattanooga as the nation mourned those service members killed in the July 2015 shootings. And when his mom visits his school his classmates whisper, “Lennox’s mom is a Marine,” proof of the pride that accompanies having a parent who wears the uniform.

“He’s been exposed to a lot,” said 1st Sgt. Dawn O. Adams, inspector-instructor/first sergeant for Battery K, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines in Huntsville. “Lennox is very resilient.”

Together for 20 years, married for nearly 18, retired Gunnery Sgt. Michael Adams and Dawn met in a recruiter’s office in Smithfield, North Carolina. Catching a glimpse of Dawn through a window, Michael was so taken away with her that he tripped over a door jam, landed at her feet and mistakenly started speaking to her in Spanish. Their love story has taken them around the world and back, with assignments that have pulled them apart, and others that have brought them together. Devoting their lives to the Marine Corps, the couple put off having children, choosing instead to put their country ahead of expanding their family.

All that changed when they deployed together to Afghanistan in 2010.

“We really learned that life is short,” Dawn said.

“It’s precious,” Michael added. “We had put so much into the Marine Corps and it was like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ – you got to see behind the curtain. We knew we had to take care of ourselves, because this chapter of our lives was coming to a close.”

Becoming pregnant proved to be more difficult than some of the missions the Marines had given them, but with the help of fertility specialists at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dawn conceived, and Lennox was born in the summer of 2011.

“I thought to myself, ‘If this is meant to be, God’s going to let it happen one way or the next, and if it isn’t supposed to be, then it isn’t going to be,” Dawn said.

Only 11 months after her son’s birth Dawn deployed to Afghanistan, a seven-month tour that involved some 350 convoys, 58 improvised explosive devices, 16 wounded and two killed in action. Leaving Lennox was the hardest thing the military has ever required of Dawn.

“I almost didn’t get on the bus,” she recalled.

The last to board, when she did get on the bus, she wasn’t the only one in tears.

“I learned how to compartmentalize my emotions,” Dawn said of the deployment. “I never cried in front of my Marines – except on the bus. By the time I got to Cherry Point I had to find some sort of resolve in myself, because I had to think about them.”

Dawn chose to devote her spare time in Afghanistan to finishing her degree, while at home Lennox learned how to answer the iPad when Dawn called to FaceTime, and that when a package arrived on his doorstep that his mommy had been thinking of him. The Mommy Doll he received he still sleeps with to this day.

“She was number one in his life,” Michael said.

While Lennox faces challenges that most of his classmates can’t understand, like having your mom go to war or moving to a foreign place like Redstone, they are life experiences that have built up his resilience, and allow him to adapt more easily to new situations. They are lessons the Adams family hope will lead to a bright future for Lennox.

“I just hope that from the experiences that we’ve been able to afford him that he grows up to be a productive citizen,” Dawn said.

Thus far he seems to be on the right track. Lennox’s ambitions for his life are great, following in his parents’ tradition of service: become a veterinarian, fireman, police officer and pilot. Occasionally, the word Marine enters into the equation, but with one caveat: Lennox isn’t going to war, because, “God can take care of the bad guys.”

“I say, ‘Mommy and Daddy already did that, so you don’t necessarily have to do it,’” Dawn said. “Do I believe that I’m going to tell him, ‘No’ and battle him? No. I will allow myself to allow him to make his own decisions. But is it something I’m going to necessarily want him to do? No.

“I do hope whatever Lennox decides for his life that it’s the right one. Being a first sergeant, being the one who saw someone’s son take their last breath – I don’t want someone presenting the flag to me, or to his wife.”

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