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NEWS | June 20, 2013

Cerebral palsy patient finds 'brother he never had' in Langley Airman

By Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Editor's note: The last name of the subject is withheld due to security reasons.

Fourteen-year-old Trenton Lindhardt was enjoying a normal afternoon at his home in California when a package arrived at the door, postmarked from "Alexander" in Virginia.

The boy was overcome with excitement opening up the package. Its contents included toys, movies and action figures -- a mix of all of his favorite things.

"Alexander" is an airman first class in the U.S Air Force, an analyst assigned to the 45th Intelligence Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va. In the short time he has known Trenton, Alexander reached out to the teen, going above and beyond the call of duty.

Trenton has cerebral palsy, a disorder that adversely impacts muscle tone, movement and motor skills. The condition has left the teenager unable to walk, talk, sit up, crawl, feed himself or drink through a straw.

Despite his physical limitations, Trenton is a bright, happy teenager, said his mother, Teresa Lindhardt. He communicates through a DynaVox, a device which assists users in overcoming speech, language and learning challenges.

"He is very quick-witted and funny," said Teresa. "He is a typical, trouble-making kiddo."

Trenton's older sister Jayme, an Airman, attended technical training at Goodfellow AFB, Texas. While there, she met Alexander and told him of her younger brother's story.

Alexander learned about Trenton's condition and the series of surgeries he underwent. More importantly, Jayme described her brother's courage and strength in the face of his illness, and how he never complained about the rigors of treatment, instead keeping a smile and a positive attitude.

Even though Trenton stayed brave and strong through his troubles, his sister expressed to Alexander their family's concerns about his next surgery to correct scoliosis, the curvature of his spine due to his bout with CP.

Moved by the story, Alexander decided to step in.

Because Trenton's family is small, Alexander's actions spoke volumes, as he then became a major outside social contact. Trenton has no grandparents, uncles or father in his life. His only family consists of his mother, sister, an aunt and a few cousins living across the country in Philadelphia.

"He stepped up and filled the missing piece in Trenton's, and my, heart," said Teresa. "He reached out to this little boy like a big brother would, or even an uncle or a father -- all the people missing from this little boy's life."

Alexander filled a hole in Trenton's life, effectively becoming the "big brother he never had," said Teresa.

Without knowing he'd make such a positive impact in Trenton's life, Alexander purchased gifts, wrote a letter and sent the items in a package. In his letter, Alexander explained how much he admired Trenton's toughness and courage.

"Trenton was so happy, he wouldn't go to sleep," Teresa said. "He wouldn't even let me throw away the box. It's under his bed."

Teresa said while Trenton underwent surgery to correct his scoliosis, he clutched the Power Ranger toys he received from Alexander.

The surgery was successful, resulting in a 100 percent correction.

As a sign of respect and appreciation, Alexander plans to send Trenton his "Airman's coin," which he received following graduation from Basic Military Training.

While in BMT, Airmen learn the three Air Force core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. Teresa expressed Alexander embodied these values, as he selflessly uplifted a young boy's spirits without giving it a second thought.

"I did it just to do it," said Alexander. "With my life being so fortunate, I felt like I needed to help someone else."

Shortly after sending the gifts, Alexander was called into his commander's office, unsure of the reason.

"[At first] I thought I was in trouble for something," said Alexander. "It's not always a good thing to [go to] the commander's office."

Rather than scold him, Alexander's leadership had learned of his act of kindness, and said the entire squadron wanted to get involved in Trenton's life. To continue Alexander's efforts, the squadron plans to send Trenton a group photo and a squadron coin.

While Alexander may think his efforts were just a way to brighten a young teenager's day, the impacts will have a lasting effect on Trenton and his family.

"I am so proud that the United States Air Force has a man like Alexander," said Teresa. "He has shown such leadership and compassion. I can never thank him enough for the smile he put on Trenton's little face."