Dear Midway Members, 

To me, this past holiday season was “more” than usual. We continue living with a frightening pandemic that has taught us to not take anything for granted. As I am a believer in always looking for the good stuff in the bad stuff, I rejoice in the occasional feel-good stories that have emerged from the BS and chaos. For me, it shows that our strength to thrive and survive – and carry on as normally as possible – endures.

Recently, I came across a wonderful story that brought me to tears. It’s about a 6-year-old boy’s kindness and his astonishing love of All Things Military.

I’d like to tell you about little Rowan Sylvester Bray.

Like many young boys, Rowan is fascinated with the military, and he clearly has a deep family connection. He has two third cousins, three great uncles and a great grandfather who served in the Navy, Marines, and Special Forces. His cousins attended and taught at West Point, and were deployed to Afghanistan. His uncles served in Vietnam and his great grandfather fought at Iwo Jima. Talk about a military family tree. 

 Amazingly, when Rowan was only 4 years old, he would ask his parents to play John Philips Sousa marching band music while he took his afternoon nap. Can you imagine sleeping through all that brass and percussion!?

Recently, he told his mother Julie, “I have another buddy in the military and his name is General Patton. I think he is a genius.” Although Rowan is starting to question if Santa Claus really exists, he truly believes that George Patton is still alive. His folks haven’t had the heart to break the news to him, at least not yet.

Rowan is a regular visitor to the USS Midway Museum. In fact, he’s been on board the ship six times in recent months. His family comes here because it is a good outdoor outing, especially when friends and relatives visit from out of town. More and more, he asks that they visit every time he has a day off from school.

At his recent sixth birthday party, Rowan requested that each guest provide $5 in place of toys so that he could donate the money. His birthday kitty totaled $70. He wanted to donate the money to military veterans because, as he told his mother, “they served our country good.” According to Julie, there isn’t a lot that a 6-year-old boy respects, but Rowan definitely respects the effort and sacrifice of every person in our military. 

After researching some veterans organizations, Rowan was not impressed because when he imagines veterans, he thinks of the Midway docents, or as he calls them, “the guys in the yellow caps.” To him, they are real people with real stories to tell. During his many visits to the museum, the docents have shown him how to salute properly and about the taste of fried chicken in the mess. They’ve also talked to him about the importance of teamwork and friendship while following rules required for survival. 

When Rowan goes to the Midway, he just walks right up to the docents and asks random questions. LOTS of them! Our yellow-capped docents happily oblige and make his experience special because, according to Rowan, the Midway is the “only ship where there are still the same people inside and actual veterans that I can talk to.”

So what does this all have to do with Rowan’s sixth birthday and Midway? To our delight, we recently received an envelope from him with $70 and a note that read, “Hi Volunteers, thank you for helping our country” in huge-scribbled letters. He donated his birthday money to our world-famous docents! WOW!

The Bray family is very grateful that their son has the opportunity to learn from living history. Me too. I hope this story of Rowan touches your heart as much as it has touched mine. He’s quite an impressive young boy and we thank him for his spirit of generosity.

Sending Warm Hugs to You and Yours,