JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
Bike 4 miles. Kayak 10 minutes. Drive 2 miles. Repeat.
This may sound like the start of an athletic competition, but it’s actually 18-year-old Jonah Lee’s commute to high school.
While multimodal transportation wasn’t his first choice, he’s making the best of it—something he’s learned from his life as a military child—after his family moved from Ford Island to Ewa in the middle of his time in high school.
“I was stressed out about switching schools and reluctant to change,” said Lee. “I thought I was going to be wet, stinky, and gross, but once I found my rhythm, it’s become a great way to start the day in nature watching the sunrise.’
Lee reported he sees turtles and fish, in addition to submarines and ships, on his way to school. After his journey across Pearl Harbor his friend’s family drives him to school.
Although Lee graduates this year, and he’ll leave his kayak behind, his nautical adventures are just beginning. Starting this fall, Lee will be a U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet.
“As a military child, my family set the example of service in my life so I knew I wanted to be in the military,” said Lee, who plans to major in mechanical engineering. “I’ve always liked the community, you get to know each other super quick and you become tighter.”
“The Coast Guard Academy is smaller than Radford High, the Coast Guard Academy has 1,100 people and Radford has 1,300, so it’s a tighter community and I like that the Coast Guard saves lives and values the environment.”
Lee follows the footsteps of his father and sometimes kayak-partner, U.S. Navy Capt. Benjamin Lee, Naval Health Clinic Hawaii family physician.
“I consider it a privilege and adventure to ride bikes and kayak with Jonah,” said the Lee patriarch. “I feel a special bond in sharing moments of sunrises and sunsets, cool, refreshing breezes, and the warm ocean water.
“I cherish this season of life as we journey and mature together.”
After living his entire life as a military child, Lee has advice for his fellow military children.
“Learn what you can control and can’t control,” said Lee, who is the youngest of four. “Don’t let things out there effect what’s in here (pointing to himself).
“It’s easy to focus on the negative, like leaving friends, but look on the brightside—you get to travel the world and meet people.”
Prior to Hawaii, the Lee family lived in Italy, California, Florida, Washington, Japan, and Maryland.
Lee’s biggest lesson from being a military child is about the value of people.
“You meet people and they leave, so you learn to make the most of your time and invest in them while you’re here,” he said. “Also your family always stays the same and will comfort you.”
Lee also reflected on what he would tell his younger self.
“It’s going to work out, in five years am I going to care if I got an 87 versus a 90, probably not, or that I had one slip up, probably not,” he said. “The world scope is so small, you think its impending doom, but it’ll be ok.”
In addition to Lee’s diverse commute, he is well-rounded in school as the National Honor Society president, a member of the swim, track, and cross country teams, and he takes several Advanced Placement courses.
“Jonah is an amazing young man who lights up a room and projects positivity,” said Meri Okano, Radford High School curriculum coordinator. “His military background makes him very open-minded to diversity and different perspectives, he embraces people for who they are, and he’s very resilient.”
April is designated the Month of the Military Child in honor of the approximately 1.7 million military children who play an important role in the armed forces community.