July 05, 2022 5 min read
#IAmAVictor Profile: Meet Ken Jones
About the Victor: Dr. Kenneth W. Jones
Dr. Jones is a pastor for a church in Northern Virginia and a military veteran, former chaplain and counselor and proud father of autistic twins. His sons currently participate in Special Olympics VA with my son and Victor Wear Co-Founder, Isaiah Hamilton. Upon chatting with Ken one day at the kids’ swim practice, I learned more about his inspiring story. I hope you all find his story of love, strength and resilience as uplifting as I do. Enjoy!
The Blessings & Burdens of Special Needs Parenting
Tiffany: Victor Wear is all about inspiring triumph over obstacles. And the brand revolves around this idea of Victors, who we define to be people who overcome challenges through grit and determination. So as a chaplain, pastor, grief counselor, a widow, author, and father of 2 special needs kids, I think that certainly describes you. Can you tell me more about challenges you’ve faced - first as a father to twins with special needs?
Ken: I have twin boys - Josiah and Jared and they’re 21 now. Both have autism and were diagnosed at age 2. I’ll never forget the day they were diagnosed. I was in the room with my wife Mary, and the doctor told us they both have autism. Then, he left us alone in a room for 30 minutes. At some point, as we were alone in the room emotionally trying to process the diagnosis and what it would mean for our lives, Mary said, “How do we move from the ‘why’ to the ‘what next?’” And that became our motto for coping with so much that autism and life threw at us.
And life threw a lot at us. We had to deal with people thinking the kids had behavior issues and that we couldn’t control them as their parents. People at church thought we had “children of the devil.” At that time, people didn't really understand autism and how it presents in different kids, so it was hard to deal with folks judging us. It was also tough to find people willing to babysit the kids and eventually we had to hire an au pair. I had to decline an Army promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, so I could remain home and give the boys what they needed. And we had to relentlessly advocate - for the quality of their education - and even their safety. One day a student was choking Jared at school. Another time, he was running on tables at middle school and the security officer there was chasing him. We had to fight to get the school district to fund an appropriate education placement for them. And winning the placement after a year and a half was a big victory.
Remaining Resilient Amid the Storms of Life
Tiffany: How did you overcome these challenges and teach your children how to survive and thrive, despite being differently abled?
Ken: Mary and I just never gave up. We never gave up on them and what they needed. And I am a pastor, so my faith is strong. We both believed that God would carry us through and give us strength. We had a strong marriage and worked as a team. And we just never gave up on getting them into the right programs and schools.
Tiffany: So, I know your former wife Mary tragically passed away. And you are now remarried. But for a while, you were a single father. What challenges did you face as a single father to special needs kids? How were you able to rise above them?
Ken: I’ll never forget the day Mary passed. The boys saw her that morning in the bed just before they left for school. I put the kids on the school bus and when I returned back home, she was gone. They were only 17. We were all coping with grieving in our own way. For me, they kept me busy during the day, and I dealt with grief at night. And I had to learn how to support autistic teens grieving. I found that there’s a surprising lack of support for single fathers. If you’re a single father struggling or in need of support, people assume you’re just a failure. As a former chaplain, I’ve been at the bedsides of other families supporting them. I’ve seen the stages of grief firsthand. So on one hand, I could logically understand what we were all going through. But on the other hand, when it happens to you, that’s another story. Even as a chaplain, it was tough. I couldn’t go on the cancer ward at the hospital anymore when I was grieving for Mary.
I grew up in the south in poverty. I dealt with a lot of racism in the military, so I developed thick skin through the years. And through it all, I remembered who I am and what I’m made of. That carried me through.
Ken's Tips to Stay Victor-ious - Against All Odds
Tiffany: What are your three best tips for rising above obstacles in life?
Ken: That is a great question. The first thing I would say is plan for challenges . If you don’t plan, you put yourself behind the curve.
The next thing I’d say is look at those who’ve gone before you. And I’ll tell you a story about that. When I was in Desert Storm, I came across a minefield and panicked. But then, I paid close attention to the tanks that went over the minefields. They weren’t blowing up. And my inner voice told me to “put your tracks over theirs.” So that is what I did. I drove on the tracks they laid and that led to my safety.
My final advice is to always seek support - from friends, families, groups - wherever you can find it. There are people and resources out there to help. Don’t take on all the burden by yourself.
Ken's Quick Tips to Walk in Your Victory
Tiffany: Where can we get more words of wisdom from you about faith and resilience?
Ken: I have a book on Amazon FAITH TO LIVE…FAITH TO DIE: A Biblical Perspective on Death, Dying, and Grief. I share my experiences as a chaplain, pastor, grief counselor, and as one who has lost a loved one. I offer encouragement and life principles to cope with despair and grief.