Veteran Stories

TMF Awards Fallen Athletic Director in Parkland Shooting and the Veteran Who Honors Him

“When you go through tragedy, you might not have the resilience to write a letter like [the one Tom Hixon wrote about his father]. For Tom and his family to go through the tragedy and still want to give back, still want to do something positive – it meant the world to me, and I could tell it meant the world to those kids.” – Jimmy White, Character Does Matter mentor


In the wake of one of America’s most horrific school shootings, a hero's legacy was solidified.

Christopher Hixon, a Navy veteran and the athletic director of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, rushed toward an active shooter on Feb. 14, 2018.

In trying to disarm the shooter to save his students’ lives, Christopher gave his own.

An Easton, Pa., native, Chris was remembered by friends, athletes, students, and family as a man with a kind heart and selfless spirit. He coached multiple sports, sometimes up to five at a time, without supplemental pay or support. He took care of his athletes, watching over them as if they were his own children, and instilled leadership and character in them.

Chris had previously served in the Navy in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. His eldest son, Thomas, followed his dad’s path of selfless leadership, serving in the Marine Corps for four years.


After Chris gave his life, his family laid their hero to rest with Travis Manion’s motto on his headstone: “If Not Me, Then Who…”.  Chris lived that ethos his whole life – not just on Feb. 14, but especially then.


Hundreds of miles away, a Philadelphia-based Character Does Matter Mentor and fellow Navy veteran heard of Chris’ sacrifice and the meaningful way the Hixons chose to honor their hero.

Jimmy served as a nuclear electrician in the Navy for 6 years, deploying as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he returned home, Jimmy continued his service, inspiring and impacting local youth through TMF.

When he heard that the Hixons buried Christopher with Travis’ five words, Jimmy connected with Thomas on LinkedIn, hoping to express condolences and support to Thomas, who was transitioning out of the military at that point into a career similar to Jimmy’s.

44460464920 df49280f51 k“I believe his story of how he continued service even after taking off his uniform will resonate with these young men, and hopefully motivate them to carry on your father’s and Travis’ legacies,” Jimmy wrote to Tom.


Tom offered to pen thoughts on his father’s stewardship of troubled teens, and Jimmy later read that letter, in its entirety, to a classroom of young men at a juvenile delinquency facility, and has quoted portions of it to hundreds of youth since.

"Don’t think that just because you got in trouble one or even a few times means that society has given up on you and that you can never make anything of yourself, that’s BS. You define who you are right now through the actions you do from now on and forward. You have the power to decide what you will be."

TMF posthumously honored both Christopher B. Hixon with the 2018 “If Not Me, Then Who…” award for his heroic and selfless actions – which Thomas accepted on his behalf at our annual gala – and Jimmy White IV for embodying TMF's mission of mentoring our future generations and honoring the legacy of our nation’s fallen heroes.

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