Have you ever met a U.S. president? I delivered the prayer (practiced it many times beforehand and was complimented afterwards) at a breakfast for President George H.W. Bush and shook hands with President William Clinton at an event for CEOs of Hispanic-serving colleges and universities.
Nikki Logan of Grayson, Ga., was nestled in the arms of President Gerald Ford as he disembarked from a plane in April of 1975. What was the occasion? Operation Babylift. Logan was one of the Vietnamese orphans who survived a disaster on April 4, 1975, of a C-5 Galaxy that crashed shortly after takeoff from Tan Son Nhat Airport as the North Vietnamese Army was closing in on Saigon.
How has the life played out of this immigrant, one among thousands, whom President Ford ordered be rescued as we failed to achieve our objectives in the Vietnam War?
Logan was 13 months old at the time of the crash and was adopted by an Italian American clerk at a private school and her husband, an Irish American state trooper.
These loving, Catholic parents adopted three additional children, and Logan indicates. “They were good parents, blue-collar workers who provided everything the family needed, including the white, colonial house that my father built with the help of his father-in-law.”
As a child in that household, Logan participated in youth groups, choir, vacation Bible school, and for a time thought she wanted to be a nun. This came, in part, from the giving nature of her parents. She says, “If we met people of Asian descent in a grocery store, my parents would invite them to dinner. Everybody was welcomed, and they, in turn, welcomed us. We were a popular family. Daddy was a master of the grill, and Mom baked 30 varieties of cookies.
“We had a chore list on Saturdays, and before we could do the things we loved to do, we completed our assigned tasks. I loved academics and read excessively and could often be found at the public library checking out books by my favorite authors.”
Logan’s brothers, Brian and Tim, loved soccer as did Logan, and she was the only female on the high school boys soccer team. At Dean College in Franklin, Mass., she was captain of the soccer team.
Logan’s interest in becoming a nun faded, and after college, she became a U.S. Marine in 1994. It was, therefore, off to Parris Island and Camp Lejeune and work in data communication. Of her military experience, she says, “I wanted to give back to the country that had taken me in and had given me a good life. I liked the discipline, the ceremony, the teamwork, the camaraderie. I didn’t like the deployment to Okinawa during typhoon season and the desert sand at Twenty-Nine Palms in California.”
In 1998, Logan exited the Marines as a corporal and after a short time as a nanny to a Korean girl (Three of her adopted siblings were Korean), decided that she needed to make a decision about her future career.
Food won out and she was off to the Connecticut Culinary Institute at Farmington, Ct., where she discovered a passion for French classical cooking with a special interest in sauces. Other specialties that interested her were broad, and she concedes that she is “a carnivore who loves seafood.” Her Facebook pages are flooded with photos of friends and delicious cuisine. She credits her interest in cooking to her observation of her parents’ skills as well as the pleasure that others took in the bounty of their efforts.
Fair-skinned and freckled, Logan has no interest in DNA testing to ascertain her biological roots, and she doesn’t get involved in politics.
With a keen interest in food, she is SNP Manager of Gwinnett County Public Schools and supervises a staff of nine at Starling Elementary School where all meals are free because of the high poverty levels there. A sadness comes into her voice as she gives brief details of a child who was killed recently in a domestic dispute.
The primary focus of Logan’s work is expressed in the motto, “No hungry child left behind.” Some of the children at her school need, as she says, “More, more, more.” She perseveres and knows that her mission is to plan and provide nutritious, enticing food to hundreds of children each school day. She says, “My rewards come regularly when parents tell me, ‘Thank you for feeding my kids.’”
Semper Fi Nikki Logan, thank you for your military service and for all you do to rescue our nation’s children day after day.